Share this article

print logo

It may be a HAM-let, but pigs aren't allowed in Eggertsville

One day after many of his peers ended up on serving plates at Easter meals, a nearly 300-pound pig named Pork Chop decided to go for a leisurely stroll in Eggertsville.

Maybe he was celebrating his escape from the carving knife, but his romp on Monday morning through this suburban neighborhood caused a stir.

His owner, neighbors and Amherst police struggled to get Pork Chop under control and back home, while bystanders took photos and cracked jokes about the pig's unexpected appearance in the hamlet.

"I said, 'What's going on? Are they looking for a fugitive?' " Jed Carver, a contractor working on a home on Coronation Drive, recalled asking when he drove up and saw all the police on the street.

In a way, they were. Residents aren't allowed to keep pigs as pets in residential sections of Amherst, according to the town zoning code, which treats them as livestock.

Mariela Vasquez, who helped corral Pork Chop on Monday, knows this all too well. The Coronation Drive resident was forced to give up her pet pig, Ham Solo, after losing a legal fight with the town, so she was pleasantly surprised to meet her new neighbor.

"He was very friendly," Vasquez said.

The porcine drama began shortly after 9 a.m. when police received a call of a pig on the loose in the area of Coronation Drive and Castle Court, a section of Eggertsville located just north of the intersection of Sheridan Drive and Millersport Highway.

Justin Cole, an employee of Northtowns Remodeling who was part of a crew renovating a bathroom on Coronation, said he noticed the pig crossing from Castle to Coronation and wandering through the front lawns of homes on Coronation.

"It was causing some commotion," he said.

Carver, Travis Rodgers and Abdulhakeem Sallih, all from Energy Saving Solutions, were putting in a new furnace and insulation at a home down the road.

Carver said he was working inside the house when a colleague called to him to say, "Hey, they're arresting our boss."

"I came upstairs and I saw them wrestling a pig," Carver said.

The trio said they cracked jokes as they watched a crowd, including police, gather across the street and attempt to wrangle the pig, which they named "Kevin Bacon."

Sallih said the pig squealed loudly anytime someone tried to get control of it.

"It sounded demonic," Carver recalled. "It didn't want to go."

Vasquez said she was driving back home from running some errands when she saw the pig, which wasn't bothering anyone.

"He was completely harmless," Vasquez said, and officers were laughing and enjoying themselves. Amherst police later posted photos from the scene on Facebook, along with the obvious joke.

She said people were feeding the pig apples and bananas.

The owner told Vasquez the pig must have gotten out through an unlatched gate. The owner, Vasquez and another neighbor did their best to get it on its way.

Vasquez said the owner identified the pig as Pork Chop and said the animal weighed between 250 and 275 pounds and was about 18 months old. Cole said it had to be at least 300 pounds.

"They put a belt on it and pushed it and dragged it and rolled it back," Cole said.

Police did not ticket the owner. Police Capt. Christopher Meyer said officers referred the case to the town's building and planning departments to determine which provisions of town code, if any, the owner had violated.

Town code allows pigs in sections of Amherst that are zoned suburban agricultural, and even there the law sets conditions on minimum property size and setbacks, Town Attorney Stanley Sliwa said.

That's because pigs are, like horses and cows and other animals with hooves, treated as livestock. Chickens are viewed differently and residents in the town can seek permission from the Amherst Zoning Board of Appeals to keep them.

Meyer would not disclose the name and address of the pig's owner. It's not clear whether the town will force the owner to give up the pig.

That's what happened to Vasquez, who kept Ham Solo for about 10 months before he escaped through a gate and drew the attention of neighbors and, eventually, town officials.

At the time, in 2016, Ham Solo was just 44 pounds, and Vasquez described the pig as an ideal pet for her children.

The Zoning Board turned down her application to keep the pig, so she sued the town in State Supreme Court. But a judge sent the case back to the town.

Vasquez, by that point threatened with fines for violating the town code, decided to give up her pig. She knew the staff at Becker Farms, in Gasport, and asked if they'd be willing to take Ham Solo. They agreed, and Vasquez and her family regularly visit.

Ham Solo, she said, is living in hog heaven.

"He's a happy piggy," Vasquez said, adding, "His best friends are chickens."

But people on Coronation haven't forgotten about Ham Solo.

Vasquez said one resident on Monday approached a police officer to say the pig belonged to her. The officer then confronted Vasquez.

"It's not me, officer," she replied. "Not this time."

Ham on the run: Escaped pig causes stir in Eggertsville

There are no comments - be the first to comment