Leave Buttercup: The family does not want to lose their beloved bellied pig.

The content of such a “pet” is still prohibited by the city charter of Pensacola. A family with a lop-bellied pig as a pet is awaiting changes to the charter.

Usually livestock don’t get presents at Christmas and don’t sleep in pink girls’ bedrooms. Usually livestock are not accustomed to the tray.

The Kirkman family of East Pensacola Heights says their pet hog Buttercup is not livestock. However, the government of the city of Pensacola thinks otherwise.


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The Kirkman family has until May to convince the City Council to change the animal welfare ordinance, which reads: “It is illegal to keep horses, mules, donkeys, goats, sheep, pigs, and other livestock in stables, barns, and paddocks within city limits.”

The Kirkmans were called to account in December for keeping a two-year-old bellied pig named Buttercup, which the family acquired when she was only 5 weeks old. They have until May to move, give away a pig, or convince the City Council to change the current ordinance.

The Kirkman family – husband David, 47, wife Laura Angstadt Kirkman, 44, and children, nine-year-old Molly and seven-year-old Butch – insist that Buttercup, a massive girl with coarse dark hair, is not cattle, but a pet, like a dog or a cat. And by the way, she is much less noisy and restless than their dog Mac, a cross between a pit bull and a boxer. The two usually get along well, although they keep their distance.

Laura Kirkman emphasizes that Webster’s Dictionary characterizes livestock as “animals kept on a farm and reared for sale and profit.” It’s not Buttercup.

“We’re not going to eat it or sell it,” says Molly Kirkman, who hopes to join the City Council’s discussion of Buttercup’s fate with her parents. “She doesn’t live on the farm, she sleeps in my room.”

Her mom adds, “It’s just one animal. The ruling refers to “pigs” in the plural. And although it is quite heavy – about 113 kg – it is still one pig.

The family was called to court when an anonymous complaint was made that the Kirkmans kept a pig at their home, in a fenced-in area between Bayu Boulevard and Sinic Highway. There was nothing specific in the complaint.

“She doesn’t make noise, she doesn’t smell, and she doesn’t cause problems for anyone,” says Laura Kirkman. “We just don’t understand why this is a problem. Most people like it. She’s a landmark here.”

The Kirkmans were talking to City Council member Sherry Myers about Buttercup. Myers said she thinks the current animal regulations are “a little outdated” and that she is working on a program for the Council to exclude bellied pigs from “livestock” and classify them as pets. She plans to present the program this month.

Myers recently became involved in a lop-bellied pig incident. Six weeks ago, a neighbor from Parker Circle called her and asked if any of the neighbors had a bellied pig: the pig had wandered into his yard.  

“Everyone in the area was happy that someone had a bellied pig nearby,” says Myers. “That was so sweet!”

The mystery was solved when it turned out that the woman was looking after a friend’s pig, and she left. “It was a fun event for our area,” she said.

unusual pig

Loose-bellied pigs are significantly smaller than ordinary pigs, most of them do not exceed the size of a medium or large dog. But they can weigh up to 140 kg.

“She’s definitely overweight,” says Dr. Andy Hillmann, Buttercup’s veterinarian. “But this is not livestock. Livestock are raised to be eaten or sold. See how she lives. She has a beautiful yard, a beautiful bed, a small pool in which she can play. She has a very comfortable life. It’s just a pet.”

And such an animal, which Laura Kirkman always wanted. “Having a pig has always been on my wish list,” she says. Molly recalls: “She was watching Charlotte’s Web and she said, ‘I want a pig! I want a pig!”

Buttercup was adopted by the family when she was 5 weeks old, from a Milton resident who had a brood of bellied pigs. “I said we need a weak cub. She was weak.”

On Saturdays, she watches Dandelion strut down the hallway to the living room to smell the visitor. Sometimes she grunts. And when Buttercup tries to turn around in the house, it’s like a truck turning on a narrow road. But the family loves it.

“She’s not a problem,” says David Kirkman. At first he was not particularly happy to become the owner of a pig. But when the little pig was brought home – she weighed about 4,5 kg – it took very little time for them to become friends.

He taught the pig to go to the toilet outside. Buttercup even went in and out through the dog door at first, until she got too big for her.

Now she mostly lies in the sun in the yard or sleeps in Molly’s room on a purple blanket next to the bed. Or sleeping in Dave’s “cave”, his backyard garage. When she needs to cool off, Buttercup climbs into the paddling pool. If she wants to wallow in the mud, the Kirkmans hose down the dirt. Mud is very easy to do!

The Kirkmans are hoping that the City Council will consider Buttercup a pet and amend current ordinances to allow families to own a single bellied pig. If not, they face a difficult decision.

“She is part of the family,” says Laura. “We love her. The children love her. This is our Buttercup.” She also hopes Buttercup will take up a little less space, as her family recently switched her to a diet more suitable for a pig that doesn’t live on a farm. Although Laura admits that she sometimes indulges Buttercup with goodies.

“She is very much loved,” says Laura. “This is how I show my love. I feed her.” She believes that the resulting dilemma is good for their two children. “They learn to deal with problems,” says Laura. “They learn to do things right and with respect.”



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