Pig in a Suburb
Most cities in urban areas strictly limit the number and types of animals you can own. You know what, I’ll take back the “strictly” adjective. How they enforce the laws generally depends on how well you get along with your neighbors. Most people, who might have one more dog or cat than allowed, or may have a ferret or chicken or pig, are violating some sort of ordinance — but nobody cares or reports it, so everything is fine … until you get that one neighbor who doesn’t like you and actually bothers to call the inspectors. This is occurring in St. Charles right now, with one family struggling to keep its family pig. The Post-Dispatch has the story here, but this question applies to every suburb and big city in Missouri. For pretty obvious reasons, this is not much of an issue in the rural parts of the state.
What limits should a city have on the type of pet you can own? In my opinion, this issue relates to property regulation or occupational licensing, in that it deserves a strict reading of the phrase “health, safety, and welfare” to justify government action. That pretty much takes care of the whole argument for me. The cities have a right to regulate poisonous snakes, large predators, or hordes of animals so large they clearly become a nuisance. I support laws against owning 12-foot pythons (which are normally owned by hard-drinking fraternity members — not a good combination). I support regulations of or bans on tigers, or wolf half-breeds, or scorpions, or 15 dogs at once. But that same interpretation would not ban a pot-bellied pig, or a few chickens, or two dogs and two cats in the same house.
I have said before that the best part of local government is watching dedicated citizens try to make their community a better place. The worst part is when citizens with little grounding in history, economics, or political theory try to solve every minor problem with a new law, as though the family with a pot-bellied pig were actually harming the rest of the neighborhood. Now, I realize that most of these types of animal regulations are actually very old, rather than a new, unconstitutional craze like red-light cameras. In days past, it might even have been necessary to enforce these laws strictly in order to differentiate between what was a farming area and what was not. But nowadays, these limits mostly just serve to increase the petty powers of government, and the annoying neighbors who enable them.