The Village of Canajoharie, New York officially passed an updated law spelling out which types of animals are illegal in the village.
The unanimous decision made by the Village Board on Tuesday, January 4, 2022, comes amid an ongoing legal battle between the village and a resident who is fighting to keep a potbellied pig that he says is an emotional support animal.
The purpose of the law is to “better explain village policy on the keeping of animals within village limits,” the law states. “A surge of violations of the current animal law provisions necessitates the clarification of village policy,” it reads.
Mayor Jeff Baker said the law is not meant to target any specific person or animal.
“It was on our agenda from years ago. We’ve had horses in the community, stuff like that,” Baker said. “The law stands for itself.”
But Wyverne Flatt, 54, who is headed for a criminal trial in March for allegedly harboring an illegal farm animal, said he believes the Village Board passed the law, in part, to make it harder for him to keep Ellie, a 100-pound potbellied pig that he says is an emotional support animal.
“I think all they did with that law is they are going to be able to pick and choose what you’re allowed to have as an emotional support animal,” Flatt said. “They are trying to figure out another way to get what they want and bully everybody else.”
The law states, “no farm animals, domesticated animals or domestic livestock shall be allowed in the Village.”
It also requires proper registration with the village clerk for “unusual animals.”
The penalty for violating the law could be a fine of up to $25 per day that an illegal animal is kept, the law states.
Flatt — who could face up to 6 months behind bars if convicted in the criminal case against him — said Ellie is a properly registered emotional support animal. He keeps a card in his wallet that says Ellie is a “registered emotional support animal” through United Support Animals. The registration is dated May 7, 2020, which is after the village’s October 2019 accusation that Flatt was illegally harboring a potbellied pig in an apartment, according to court documents. Ellie’s emotional support animal registration card says “registration does not expire; valid for the life of the animal.”
However, the court documents contain pieces that question Ellie’s status as an emotional support animal, including an Oct. 15, 2020, letter from Village Health Officer Kenneth Riley, who was asked to evaluate the appropriateness of keeping a pig in the village.
“The pig is registered online as an emotional support animal with a letter of support from his primary care provider. I spoke with the provider who was not aware of the size of the pig or the condition of the apartment caused by the very large pig living there. The provider has agreed this is not appropriate or healthy for the patient and has agreed to rescind her support of his keeping this ‘emotional support pig,’” the letter reads.
The criminal trial, slated to begin on March 22 in the Town of Palatine court, could very well hinge on whether Ellie is determined to be a legal emotional support animal.