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‘Like having a small child’: Illegal pet pig in Chilliwack dies hours after being re-homed

Owner aims to change bylaw following death of miniature pot-bellied pig Hamson
Eli Gagne holds up his phone with a photo of his miniature pot-bellied pig Hamson who had to be re-homed recently as Fraser Valley Regional District bylaws do not permit livestock as pets within a residence or on real property. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

A family who owned a pet pig in downtown Chilliwack received some tragic news after they were forced to re-home him due to a violation of a Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) bylaw.

Eli Gagne received a call from animal control with the FVRD Thursday, Aug. 5 after a neighbour made a complaint about his family’s 70-pound miniature pot-bellied pig Hamson in Gagne’s backyard.

According to the bylaw, livestock are not allowed as pets within a residence or on real property.

Hamson is much like a dog, living inside the house and playing in the backyard with the kids and dogs, Gagne said. Details of the complaint were not revealed to Gagne and he was given a week to re-home Hamson, or face a fine of $100 per day.

Eli Gagne’s sons Xander (left) and Dane along with dog Bella. (Eli Gagne)
Eli Gagne’s sons Xander (left) and Dane along with dog Bella. (Eli Gagne)

It was stressful. Gagne lost sleep and was in tears as he scrambled to find a new home for his pig.

Within a few days, Gagne had secured a place for Hamson more than three hours away. The people who agreed to take Hamson recently took in a female mini pig who had been abused. They wanted a companion who could bond with her on their hobby farm just outside of Kelowna.

Gagne brought Hamson to them on Sunday, Aug. 8.

Four hours after arriving at his new home, Hamson died.

“It’s bad enough to have to be re-homed, but then passing away because of stress and anxiety…”

He died because of the move, Gagne said, adding he couldn’t find a local farm that would take Hamson.

“No farm in the area would take him because he’s not considered livestock by their standards,” Gagne said.

He agrees with the farmers that Hamson is a pet, not livestock. He’s also neutered and even if he could be bred, his miniature breed is too small to consume.

“He is of no use to them within their industry,” he said. “Animal control was trying to explain to me that I couldn’t keep him because he was livestock. But the people that carry livestock were saying he’s not livestock, he’s a pet.”

FVRD’s Consolidated Sub-Regional Animal Control Bylaw includes the following definitions for pets and pigs: “pet” means any common domesticated animal other than exotic animals, wildlife, livestock or poultry kept within a residence or on real property; “livestock” means cattle and other animals of the bovine species, horses, donkeys, mules, emus [Bylaw 1298], llamas, ostrich, swine, sheep or goats.

Hamson the pig. (Eli Gagne)
Hamson the pig. (Eli Gagne)

Gagne is a member of the Libertarian Party of Canada and he’s now in the middle of getting a petition started through them to get the bylaw changed.

“I brought it up with them about a petition because land ownership and what we do on our own land is our own business is a very big part of being a libertarian,” he said.

Gagne and his family got Hamson in December of 2019 when he was just 12 weeks old.

“It’s like having a small child. He had his own personality. He’s stubborn, he wants what he wants. He was very routine-oriented. He definitely knew when it was dinner time, breakfast time and the time to have his treat before bed. He would even run into his kennel in our house to get his treat.”

Now Gagne is hoping something can be done to change the bylaw so folks can have a pig like Hamson as a pet living in their home.

He contacted both MLAs in Chilliwack and has also reached out to an attorney to see what he can do about “litigating against animal control for animal cruelty, fear mongering, and changing the wording of the bylaw.”

He said there’s a “grey area” in the bylaw and FVRD should make a distinction between a pig in a residential area that is a pet and one that is livestock.

“The ultimate goal is to change the bylaw in his name so that his passing isn’t in vain.”

Julie Gagne with Hamson the pig. (Eli Gagne)
Julie Gagne with Hamson the pig. (Eli Gagne)

RELATED: Chilliwack family forced to move 10 pet quail as result of ‘vague’ city bylaws


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Jenna Hauck

About the Author: Jenna Hauck

I started my career at The Chilliwack Progress in 2000 as a photojournalist.
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