The Tale Of Porky And Butch
Wednesday - February 18, 2009
It’s been a tough year for pigs. Nobody seems to understand their status and relationship to humans. There is some strong and convincing evidence that pigs cannot be underestimated - as pets or animals. In one context, loveable pets, and in another, dangerous animals - they can love human contact and also can be extremely dangerous.
Do you remember in October 2008 when an Oahu man was convicted of killing a pet pig? It caused an uproar because the young man received a maximum five-year sentence. The convicted man was a hunter who insisted he did not kill the pig, named Porky, and there was testimony by another hunter who confessed to the crime.
The word murder wasn’t used because the victim was a pig, so it went in the judicial record as a slaughtered pet pig. It didn’t help the suspect that he had a criminal history of kidnapping, making him a repeat offender. His family pointed out that there are cases where individuals convicted of negligent homicide serve only a year in jail and probation. The young man was tried twice, with the first effort ending in a mistrial, but convicted by a jury the second time around. He is currently serving a 10-year term for a firearm conviction and as a repeat offender must serve at least one year and eight months of the five-year sentence for killing Porky.
Recently, a prisoner at the Waiawa Correctional Facility was bitten on his hand by a pig, Butch, who evidently roams the grounds and is considered a pet by guards and inmates at the facility. The prisoner claims he was standing in the lunch line when he was attacked by Butch. The prisoner maintains that the attack was unprovoked and that he was seriously hurt, saying that he can no longer make a fist with his right hand.
It presents an interesting legal question. In one case, a human attacks a pet pig, and in the other, a pet pig attacks a human.
This is no laughing matter for the taxpayers, because we have one human in jail serving an extended sentence for slaughtering a pet pig and another suing the state, saying, “The state harbored the boar pig on the facility and failed to provide a safe environment.” He is seeking an unspecified amount of damages for his injury.
It’s too early to tell how either of these cases will ultimately turn out, but a couple of lessons are probably obvious to the law-enforcement community. First, the law needs to clarify what kind of behavior a pig must demonstrate to be declared a pet. Secondly, how long does the animal have to be in captivity before it becomes a pet? It would appear on the surface that if the pig can stand in a lunch line in a minimum security prison and is known to everyone by name, then it is probably a pet.
If it is a pet, then that suggests it not only has a name, but must be cared for, including food and water and a safe place to sleep - someplace where it won’t be mistaken for a wild animal by some hunter roaming the area.
Additionally, a pet should probably expect to take its meals without being harassed by humans or other predators in the area while dining. It should be noted that animals that become pets are very territorial and do not like their space invaded by unknown people or other animals.
It seems that under the circumstances and the way the law is administered, a pet can attack a human, but a human cannot attack a pet. Interesting to note that there are a lot of similarities between being a pet and a prisoner: Both must be cared for by others, but one of them doesn’t have as many benevolent supporters.
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