KINGSTON TWP. — Nearly 30 township residents turned out for a zoning board hearing Thursday night that would decided the fate of Gemma, a pot-bellied Vietnamese pig.
Anyone who came expecting to hear a final decision left disappointed, as the board ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to decide if the pig would be allowed to stay in the township.
Mount Olivet Road resident Heather Brennan, the owner of Gemma, an 11-month-old indoor pig, was cited last week by Bill Eck, the township zoning and code enforcement officer, for having a pig in an area zoned residential.
Brennan appealed the citation.
“After reviewing the relevant documents, I concluded the zoning hearing board lacks jurisdiction and authority to hear this appeal,” said attorney Donald Brobst, representing the Kingston Township Zoning Hearing Board.
“This is an appeal from a code enforcement notice for a violation of a Chapter 2, Section 202 of the animal nuisance ordinance, not a violation of a zoning ordinance. The Zoning Hearing Board does not have the authority to hear appeals under the animal nuisance ordinance,” Brobst said.
Disappointed in the decision, attorney Larry Kansky, who represents the family who owns the pig, said his client was cited under a zoning ordinance. The legal notice for the hearing was advertised as a zoning issue and his client’s $500 check to appeal the zoning ordinance was accepted, he said.
“The ordinance my client was cited under states it is unlawful for any person to own a pig, hog or swine in any area in the township except for those zoned agricultural,” Kansky said. “So it is a zoning issue.”
The duty of the zoning board is to review the decisions of the zoning officer, and in this case, it was determined the case was cited under the animal nuisance ordinance, Brobst said.
Brobst confirmed the zoning officer’s citation requiring the pig to be removed still stands.
After the hearing, Kansky noted he will be filing an appeal.
“That pig will not leave that house,” Kansky said.
The family sat in shock.
Brennan, her young son and her parents, Karen and Charles Laskowski, acquired Gemma last fall after a psychologist suggested an emotional support animal would help with some issues a family member suffers from. The family was attracted to Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs after seeing some at the Bloomsburg Fair, Karen Laskowski said.
At the time, the family lived in Exeter Township. They moved into a bigger home in Kingston Township in December.
Before the home was purchased, Laskowski checked with the municipality to see if Gemma would be accepted.
In November, Laskowski sent a fax to the township to verify the zoning laws would allow Gemma.
“I have my phone records that show I called Nov. 15 to confirm they received the fax,” Laskowski said. “I received a callback. We were told we were allowed to have her.”
Four months later, the family is fighting to keep their indoor pet.
“She is not a nuisance animal,” Karen said. “She is outdoors for 15, maybe 20, minutes a day.”
Gemma shares her residency with Tanner, a Labrador retriever, and Sofia, a Yorkie.
“She thinks she is a dog,” Karen said. “She is an indoor pet. She would not know what to do if she was left outside.”
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.