A decision about what to do with Chuckles, a Vietnamese potbelly pig, was made at the Nov. 19 town council meeting, and it was a decision that left the Dahl family smiling.
"It's a step forward, I was getting nervous there for a bit, and there's really nothing you can do, people have to make the best educated decision they can," said Trevor Dahl.
"I put my trust in the system and the decision was made, and for me it just goes to show that if the right people are making the decisions then the right decisions can get made."
Chuckles had been removed from the family's home previously because having a pig was not an allowable use under the Animal Control Bylaw. After some discussion, and a couple council meetings, an amendment was created that would allow the family to keep their beloved pig, who is also an emotional support animal for their daughter Cassandra.
"In drafting the attached amendment administration contacted Municipal Affairs to inquire if a resolution to provide for an exception to the current Animal Control Bylaw could be made. Municipal Affairs informed us that a resolution would not be sufficient in doing so, that an exception would have to be made into the Animal Control Bylaw itself," said Municipal Clerk Jennifer Sawatzky.
It would also not be appropriate to include a provision in the bylaw for the Dahl family only. Municipal Affairs suggested that the only possible change would be to include an actual clause that would allow council to grant an exception to any section of the bylaw if deemed appropriate.
"We were warned though that this clause could be challenged and that including this type of clause defeats the purpose of having a bylaw," said Sawatzky.
In the end administration brought forward a clause that would allow for emotional support animals within the town boundaries.
"In the bylaw an emotional support animal will only be allowed if documentation is provided to the town that shows one, certification from a Canadian authority qualifying the animal as an emotional support animal," said Sawatzky.
"Two, a letter from a licensed health professional indicating the individual's medical need for an emotional support animal under the referral of a medical doctor. Requirements that pertain specifically to potbelly pigs have also been added to the amendment."
It was the best option, but there still remain concerns that it will open the doors to allow for many other different types of animals in the town, should they be considered emotional support animals. If future requests come forward to council for emotional support animals then further amendments will need to be made to the Animal Control Bylaw that are specific to each particular species.
"I don't have a problem with this, I do have a compassionate side of me as I like kittens and teddy bears, but as a town councillor I have to exercise my common sense and judgment to come up with a fair and reasonable decision to vote on one way or the other," said Councillor Rocky Blokland.
"I strongly believe we're heading into uncharted waters with this and there could be major repercussions in the future."
He did, however, agree with the conditions being proposed, and voted in favour of the amendment, along with the rest of council.
Dahl and his family were relieved as they watched the motion pass. He had a hand in helping with the bylaw, and said Chuckles has been invited into schools and different places around town to help educate people about pigs, and what it is like to own one.
"They're an amazing pet, but they're not for everyone, they're not a dog, they are not a cat, they are a different type of animal that needs to a different type of person to take care of them," said Dahl.
"I've been given a chance here to help educate people in Strathmore on potbelly pigs so I would like to take this chance to show people what kind of pets they are and keep that education going, because if Strathmore has given us this chance then we can use this down the road in different municipalities .... just to get people out of that mindset that a potbelly pig, yes it's a pig but it's not the same as the ones that get raised on the farm and get turned into bacon and pork chops, it's a totally different animal."
Chuckles came home on Nov. 19, happy to snuggle up with Cassandra in her bed.