Man fights to keep his pet pig


Some people have normal pets like a dog or a cat, but Wyverne Flatt has a pig.

Ellie the pot-bellied pig snuggles up to Wyverne Flatt when he watches TV and sometimes rolls over to let him pet her belly. The 110-pound pig is “family,” Flatt says, an emotional support animal who helped him through a divorce and the death of his mother.

To Officials in his upstate village of Canajoharie, Ellie is just a farm animal Flatt is harboring in the village illegally. The case could soon be headed to a criminal trial.

  • “I could never dream of giving away somebody who’s part of my family,” Flatt said recently as he patted the pig in his kitchen. “She’s very smart. She’s more intelligent than my dogs. I think she can kind of hone in on you when you’re feeling bad because she’ll want to come in and snuggle with you.”

A village code officer told Flatt he was housing Ellie illegally in October 2019 during a visit for a building permit request. When the village noticed Ellie was still there six months later, Flatt was formally notified he was violating the local code barring farm animals in the village. Violation of a zoning code is a misdemeanor under state law, according to court filings.

A note from a nurse practitioner saying Ellie helped Flatt get off of medication is in dispute. And while he keeps in his wallet a laminated card illustrated with a headshot of Ellie saying she is a “registered emotional support animal,” the village’s attorney said it was obtained online for a fee with no formal legal process.

  • “Defendant provided no legitimate proof that he is a person under disability, and no proof that his disability was remedied by having an emotional support animal, nor that the particular animal — a pig — was the only suitable remedy for his condition,” attorney Kirsten Dunn wrote in a filing last year.

A trial was scheduled to start March 22, but has been delayed. If found guilty, Flatt could face jail time or have the pig taken from him, according to his attorney.

  • “There’s a disconnect in most people’s minds that even though these animals were imported originally as pets, they were never intended to be food. There’s still a lot of people who do that equation: Pig equals food,” said Kathy Stevens, founder of the Catskill Animal Sanctuary for rescued farm animals and a supporter of Flatt.