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Potbellied pigs soon will be legal again in Kansas City

Ann Varner (left) and her pig Marlee like to go for walks in their Westport neighborhood. Last year, they visited with Champa Thomson and his grandmother Becky Malomo.
Ann Varner (left) and her pig Marlee like to go for walks in their Westport neighborhood. Last year, they visited with Champa Thomson and his grandmother Becky Malomo. The Kansas City Star

Vietnamese potbellied pigs will soon be legal again in Kansas City, thanks to the activism of a 22-year-old who came from a farm near the St. Louis area and has a beloved pet mini pig named Marlee.

Ann Varner, 22, was living in Westport and walking her mini pig one day about 10 months ago when animal control officers told her she couldn’t have the pig as a pet in the city. She had brought Marlee with her when she moved to Kansas City from a farm in the St. Louis area, and says the pig was a beloved pet not just for her but for others in her neighborhood. Marlee, who will be 5 in October, was litter-box trained, went on daily walks and even slept with Varner.

Many other metro area cities allow Vietnamese potbellied pigs as pets, so Varner galvanized numerous other supporters and reached out to City Councilman John Sharp, chairman of the council’s public safety committee. Sharp and his aide researched the existing city law and found that it allowed the pigs, but only those acquired before December 1995.

“It had never been updated,” Sharp said.

Last week, the City Council voted on an updated ordinance that allows Kansas City residents to keep pigs acquired since 1995 as pets. Residents can have up to four cats, dogs or pigs, or some combination thereof. As with dogs, pigs are not allowed to run at large and should be kept in a fenced area or on a leash. The ordinance passed Thursday and is scheduled to become effective 10 days later, July 12.

Councilwoman Cindy Circo was the lone vote against the ordinance. She said she was aware of instances in which the pigs were not well cared for, and she did not think they should be kept as pets.

Varner disagreed and said they can make excellent pets, but they do need plenty of exercise, stimulation and the chance to root in the dirt.

“They are absolutely outdoor animals,” she said. “They need to be able to go on walks.”

Varner is staying temporarily in St. Joseph on a summer radiology study program. She has Marlee with her and had feared she might have to move permanently out of Kansas City to keep her. Now, she plans to move back to Kansas City later this summer.

“I was able to change the law,” she said. “It feels very good, and I can live in the city I love.”

To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to lhorsley@kcstar.com.

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