Louren Reed first saw the sign at Eckstein Middle School in north Seattle: “No dogs, cats, or pot bellied pigs.”
Cats, dogs — okay. But why pigs? Reed asked KUOW’s Local Wonder to investigate.
Reed moved to Seattle two years ago and posted a photo of the sign. Her friends from elsewhere thought it was funny.
“They thought it was weird,” she said. “People who live in other parts of the country were like, ‘Oh, Seattle.’”
And it turns out their reaction is appropriate, because the story behind this sign is weird and totally Seattle.
In the early days of Seattle, livestock were outlawed. Seattle wanted to be considered an up-and-coming metropolis, which is hard to do with smelly cows and goats wandering the streets.
Then in the 1990s, potbellied pigs became the hot new pet trend. They were illegal, but that didn’t stop people from owning them.
But one vigilante citizen was not down. This person did NOT like these pigs.
Sue Donaldson was on the Seattle City Council back then. She said, “This person, it was my understanding, infiltrated the hobby club of the pig owners and then would turn them in and demand that the city charge them with violating the law.”
(See? So Seattle.)
Donaldson believed it was ridiculous to waste city resources on going after pig owners.
“It didn’t seem the little pigs were bothering anybody,” she said. “This seemed to be just one disgruntled citizen.”
So in 1993, Donaldson sponsored a law to classify pigs as pets instead of livestock. It passed.
Kara Main-Hester, deputy director of the Seattle Animal Shelter, said now city residents may have one pet pig in the city of Seattle. They can be up to 22 inches tall and 150 pounds.
“They can be pretty big, but in general they are on the smaller side than, say, a hog that you would see on a farm,” Main-Hester said.
Also, some of these pigs are classy, leaning toward the Miss Piggy end of the swine spectrum; like Bella, whose owner treats her like a lady and gives her weekly manicures.
Bella also sports a polka-dot bow between her ears. Christina Eytel said people often ask her what other farm animals she owns, a question she finds offensive.
“Bella is not a farm animal,” Eytel said. “Bella is a house pig. She’s a princess. She doesn’t like the mud. I tried to give her a mud bath. She hates it. She prefers bubble baths.”
(Although now she weighs too much for Eytel to lift into the tub, so she settles with showers.)
Eytel, a veterinary technician, said the wave of pigs as pets in the 1990s was a fad. People didn’t know what they were getting into, she said.
“There wasn’t a lot known about the dietary needs, the housing needs and things like that, so it kind of got out of control for a little bit,” Eytel said.
The potbellied pigs would arrive as cute, 15-pound babies and grow into their full-framed 150 pounds … which is a lot of pig.
Today, there are nine registered pet pigs in Seattle. So why are they included on those school signs? The school district said it is simply following city guidelines on pets.
And according to Main-Hester with the animal shelter, this dates back to that change in the municipal code in 1993.
“They prohibited cats, dogs, and potbellied pigs to enter a public fountain or school grounds,” she said. “They comprehensively added potbellied pigs pretty much to any place where there was something about dogs, which makes sense.”
Which is why potbellied pigs were included on these signs. The pig fad of the 1990s may have faded, but the signs (or, snort, swigns) remain.
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