Is a pig a pet?

(WSVN) - She has a pet pig as a support animal, but the county told her the animal has to go. That’s why she called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Sometimes life is difficult for Barbara Rodriguez.

Barbara Rodriguez, has pet pig: “I suffer from a lot of anxiety. I get very stressed out. I get very depressed.”

Then four years ago, a boyfriend brought Barbara a small animal.

Barbara Rodriguez: “I didn’t know how to handle a pig, so I was very scared of her until I was sitting down and I came to look, and she was laying on my feet. I was like, ‘Aw!’ That was it. That was my baby forever.”

Barbara named the pig Rosie because of the color of her skin. In four years, Rosie has grown a little and gotten even more adorable.

Barbara Rodriguez: “I can’t let go of her. Look at her. Look at her cheeks. Hahaha. She’s amazing. Mi gorda!”

Another benefit?

The joy Rosie brings Barbara has helped her cope with the hurdles in her life.

Barbara Rodriguez: “She’s a service pet because of my depression and my anxiety.”

Barbara has a dog, a cat and lives on a half-acre to give Rosie room to stroll around until she decides it’s too hot outside.

Barbara Rodriguez: “She will knock with her nose, and I will bring her in. She goes directly into the bedroom where I have a mattress for her. She will sleep there.”

Barbara has learned what many people know: that a pet pig can be as smart and sweet as a dog or cat and just as much fun.

Barbara Rodriguez: “People come by, they videotape her, they watch her. ‘Can I take pictures [for] my grandson?’ People love her. She brings a lot of people happiness around here.”

Then a Miami-Dade County official saw Rosie. She didn’t bring a smile to his face.

Barbara Rodriguez: “And then they told me I had to get rid of the pig because she’s a farm animal, and this is not a farm.”

Barbara was devastated.

Barbara Rodriguez: “I started to cry immediately. I broke down.”

Barbara tried to reason with Miami-Dade County to explain Rosie wasn’t hurting anyone.

She didn’t get anywhere.

Barbara Rodriguez: “That’s not an eating pig. That’s just a pet, but they told me I had 15 days to get her out or they were fining us.”

In Barbara’s eyes, Rosie is service animal who brings comfort.

To Miami-Dade County, she is livestock.

Howard, what does the law call a pig?

Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: “Federal law does not distinguish between dogs and pigs for emotional support animals, but Miami-Dade County has zoning laws that block pigs from residential areas. The break for Barbara? Under federal law, she can be granted a variance to keep the pig and should apply for that with the county.”

We checked with Miami-Dade County about that variance and we found out why most people don’t apply for one. It costs more than $7,500. Barbara can’t afford that, but Howard said she is not out of luck yet.

Howard Finkelstein: “Under federal law, Barbara has the right to ask for a reasonable accommodation of their ordinance, specifically to waive the fee, and I believe she has a good legal argument to get that variance and keep the pig.”

Barbara Rodriguez: “It’s abusive because it’s not an amount anybody can just come up with.”

Rosie can stay with Barbara while she asks the county to waive the fee and grant her the variance. Her last attempt to save her pet pig.

Barbara Rodriguez: “The situation? Bad. They can take away one of my animals. They’re my kids, and they are trying to take them away.”

Well, we will keep an eye on Barbara’s battle to see if she can get the $7,500 application fee waived and get the variance to keep Rosie. Should be interesting.

Squealing about a problem you think is hog wash? Don’t let it become a “boar.” Contact us ’cause we won’t be hamstrung as we root around for a solution.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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