'Emotional support' pigs spur ordinance debate in Manchester Twp.
MANCHESTER TOWNSHIP — More than three years ago, Jessica Maul's children witnessed their grandfather's death. The death, which was unexpected and sudden, left Maul's children with major anxiety disorders, she said.
"It was awful. It was a very traumatic event," Maul said. "To see your kid suffering from that was horrible."
In response, Maul adopted Kevin and LuLu — two potbellied pigs — to help with anxiety and emotional support.
Though the pigs have been members of the Maul family for a few years now, a recent complaint from a neighbor led the Mauls to Manchester Township's municipal office, where officials said the Mauls' pigs did not comply with the township's household pet ordinance.
The township's zoning board denied the Mauls' appeal. But then, the Manchester Township Board of Supervisors in August agreed to not prosecute the Maul's until they could fully view and determine what could be done to address the situation.
Then in October, the discussion of an emotional support animal ordinance was first brought up that could help alleviate these issues.
"I think the harder problem is to craft a procedure for emotional support animals, but that's actually the more restrictive and more limiting rule," said township solicitor Lawrence Young. "And that's really what the (Maul) family here needs."
On Tuesday, Oct. 8, several supervisors and public officials considered potential options for situations involving emotional support animals that would not otherwise comply with local zoning ordinances.
Maul said she was looking for the board to simply amend local law to include potbellied pigs as part of the household pet ordinance.
But Young said the situation requires a broader approach.
"It wasn't really the problem that we needed to solve," Young said. "Making mini-pigs as pets solves this family's problem, but it doesn't solve the problem for the next person who comes in with an emotional support animal."
Young, the township's solicitor, was asked by the board of supervisors to look into the issue.
Young said he aimed to craft a procedure in which a Manchester Township resident would be required to fill out a form, have proper medical documentation and get approved for having the animal.
Though under the Fair Housing Act any person with a disability cannot be turned away from housing with a certified service animal or emotional support animal, board officials want to create a fair ordinance to restrict things "as little as possible" while ensuring public safety is a key component.
"You don't want an emotional support Bengal tiger," Young said. "We have to come up with some reasonable restrictions."
Several supervisors agreed with Young that a new ordinance would be the appropriate course of action.
Nothing has been written up or voted on yet.
"All we're trying to do is set up a procedure that says you have to tell us what it is, you have to present us with a medical certificate," Young said. "Pigs as pets solves today's problem, it doesn't create a solution for the bigger problem that you might face next year."
— Reach Tina Locurto at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.