A Vic West man fighting to have outdated city bylaws changed is one step closer to bringing his potbelly pigs back home.
For the last four months, Mike Downey has been visiting his two potbelly pigs Athena and Vishnu at a farm in Brentwood Bay on the west side of the Saanich Peninsula.
Downey was forced to get rid of his pets after the City of Victoria told him they are in violation of city bylaws and threatened him with a $250 fine for every day the animals remained in the home.
However, living on a farm hasn’t been easy for the two domesticated pigs, who have lived with Downey for just over three years.
Downey said the pigs have gained significant weight from the unlimited amount of grass they have access to. Both pigs, who are used to the warmth of a home, have not adapted to living in a horse stall, so Downey set up a tent and tarp with sleeping bags and pillows to keep them warm.
Vishnu, the larger of the two pigs, has also developed breathing problems.
“This tears me apart inside, mentally. Every time I go outside with my clothes on and I feel as though it’s cold, all I can think about is how much they must be suffering,” Downey said. “It’s the most bothersome issue for me to know that my pigs aren’t healthy or happy . . . it’s been one of the worst winters of my life.”
But support has been growing to bring the pigs home.
The Facebook page Save Mikes Pet Pigs has more than 2,500 likes. It has even garnered a bit of celebrity attention with Victoria musician Nelly Furtado showing her support on Twitter, and music producer DJ Yella calling on the city to let Downey have his pigs back in a video.
In November, Downey made a presentation to council, calling to have the bylaw reviewed.
Since then, Coun. Ben Isitt said he’s in support of amending the bylaw.
“I think it’s reasonable to allow members of the public to keep these pets providing they do so responsibly,” Isitt said.
“I think there could be a lot more harm posed to the public from dangerous dogs or dangerous species of another animal. There’s nothing particular about these types of pigs that expose the public to unreasonable risk.”
Despite the support, amendment to a city bylaw requires a majority vote on council before it is even reviewed.
Downey said he’s hopeful he’ll get the support he needs to have the bylaw reviewed.