JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Despite Jonesboro's city ordinance that bans having swine within city limits, one woman was granted permission to do so after her request was approved to have a pig as an emotional support animal.
However, that request may have never been granted if it wasn't for the help of the Barkley family.
Shirley Taylor bought her miniature pig, Bacon Bits, in January to prepare him to become an emotional support animal just like the elderly dog she'd owned for over a decade.
"With Honey getting older and older, I happened to see a family was selling a pig and I wanted it," said Taylor. "I have really bad anxiety and Honey helped out a lot with that but I know animals do not live forever so when I saw Bacon Bits, I wanted to start the transition into making him an emotional support animal."
Taylor said she made the purchase without knowing it would have been an issue.
"Ignorance of the law is unacceptable but for some reason, when I was looking at city ordinances, I saw all these animals that were banned from the city, but I missed the part that said swine was included in that as well," said Taylor. "So I got Bacon Bits when he was a baby and then afterward, I saw the things the Barkleys were going through."
Taylor said she was then unsure about her next step.
"I wasn't sure what to do because I knew they were trying to change the law and I wanted to keep him but I didn't want to get in trouble," said Taylor.
In March, Bacon Bits got out of his fence. That is when the city was aware that the Barkleys' pigs, Wilbur and Fern, were not the only pigs living illegally in Jonesboro.
"They are very smart animals so he got loose under a part of the fence that I thought was secure enough," said Taylor. "I chased him for like an hour. Then, I got tired and began to get too hot so I reached out and told everyone on this app, that if you see Bacon Bits to herd him my way."
Taylor said Animal Control got to him first.
"I heard this really loud squealing," said Taylor. "It sounded like he was hurt but I thought he was just trying to get back into the fence. Then, I ran outside and saw Animal Control had him on a catch pole. I didn't see much next because I panicked."
Jonesboro City Attorney Carol Duncan said after reviewing the footage of Bacon Bits being caught and seeing Taylor's reaction, she genuinely felt that he was an emotional support animal.
"I do believe she was genuinely emotionally traumatized from that event," said Duncan.
"From then, I was given the standard 10 days to get him out of the city so I got in compliance with the law," said Taylor. "It is hard to have to relocate a dog or cat so just imagine a pig. But, one person put me in contact with another and on a post on Facebook, I ended up getting in contact with Danna Barkley. People knew she was in a similar situation so I felt she could give me some advice."
In 2016, the Barkley's began their fight against the city's ordinance to keep their two pot-bellied pigs, Wilbur and Fern.
"They did not provide sufficient documentation that stated their pigs had to be emotional support animals," said Duncan. "We are not going to treat the Barkleys any different than anyone else but we have to look at each individual case to see if they meet the requirements and that is our plan."
Being outside city limits now, the Barkleys took Bacon Bits in as their own until Taylor could work things out with the city.
"They took him in April," said Taylor. "There are so many times I wanted to pay them back. I could not afford to do so because I am a single parent and disabled but I wanted to do so much but she would not let me. She would tell me, 'No no you can't. I am just happy to help!' So she was really sweet about helping me."
The city believed, despite the Barkley's efforts to keep their pigs in Jonesboro as emotional support animals, they did not follow one major rule.
"You can't be in violation of the law and then try to ask for accommodation," said Duncan. "The rules are that you ask for your accommodation for the emotional support animal prior to getting the animal and I believe Taylor would have done that had she known the ordinance didn't change about the pigs in the first place."
While Bacon Bits lived with the Barkleys, Taylor was able to do all the necessary steps such as updating her proper documentation for having a need for an emotional support animal.
"We just felt she met the requirements that are required by law to have an emotional support animal and had done everything the city asked her to do," said Duncan.
Now, Taylor said she is thankful for everything the Barkelys have done to raise awareness since the beginning.
"I feel guilty that I won and they didn't but she paved the way for me to be able to have my baby home with me," said Taylor. "It is her case and her struggle that made it possible for me to be able to even fight for him."
Bacon Bits came home Sunday after Taylor received an official letter from the city granting her request.
"It was like an old and new feeling," said Taylor. "He is still getting acclimated to the house because when I got him, he was just a baby and he has been gone the same amount of time that I had him but he is comfortable now and if anything, I was worried that he would miss being with Wilbur and Fern because he loved them so much."
She added that she is beyond grateful for the Barkley family's support.
"Thankful isn't a strong enough saying," said Taylor. "It isn't. I'll never be able to repay her for what she has done for me. Never."
Duncan said she is happy Taylor's need is met but she does feel people abuse the law when it comes down to emotional support animals.
"The city doesn't want to be in a position of taking an animal away if that animal serves an individual with emotional support," said Duncan. "However, I do feel people find loop holes in that law which is still so underdeveloped. I think those that take advantage of that hurt those who really need this."
She added that in any case, the city ordinance still stands.
"You are still not allowed to have any kind of swine within city limits or you will be cited," said Duncan. "I do believe Taylor's case is different but she knows her pig needs to be in compliance with emotional support animals as far as not being a nuisance or a danger. As long as she does her duty at keeping him from escaping, then we will have no problems."
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