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Montreal couple hoping city lets them keep beloved pet pig named Babe

Last Updated Apr 19, 2018 at 5:00 pm EDT

Mario Ramos and his daughter Rose-Elisabeth are seen in the family apartment with their pet pig Babe Thursday, April 19, 2018 in Montreal. An anonymous complaint has been made to the Montreal borough and the family is being forced to rehome her potbelly pig within the next fifteen days.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

MONTREAL – Babe the pig spends his days sleeping, going for walks on a leash or lounging around the Montreal condo he shares with his owners, their baby and three cats.

His owners, Mario Ramos and Sara-Maude Ravenelle, say he’s clean, intelligent and affectionate.

But now the couple is being faced with the prospect of giving up their family pet after a complaint from a neighbour led to a notice from the city that says micro pigs aren’t on the list of allowable pets.

The notice stated they had 15 days to find a solution that complies with city rules or else face penalties.

“I asked the agent if the complaint was about noise, and they said it wasn’t about noise or nuisance, just that there’s a pig living here,” Ramos said in an interview.

Babe, for his part, appeared unconcerned with his fate Thursday, as he alternated between snoozing on a mattress, licking reporters’ shoes or lumbering down the hallway of the couple’s ground-floor condo in search of food.

Ramos said the 27-kilogram porker is a “member of the family” who is affectionate toward the couple and their baby daughter, Rose-Elisabeth.

“He sleeps most of the time, like a cat,” he said. “He’s very friendly with other animals and with kids.”

Many large Canadian cities, including Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver, don’t allow pigs to be kept as pets.

But Ramos says Montreal’s rules are unclear.

He and his wife checked with their previous borough before bringing Babe home three years ago and were told pigs were allowed.

But new city-wide animal control rules adopted in 2016 don’t mention pigs at all, either as permitted or banned.

Ramos points out the city is working on a new animal control bylaw that will be presented by this summer, which he hopes will make allowance for his family’s porcine presence.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said Thursday the city has been in contact with the family and the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough mayor as it works to develop new rules.

“We’re going to present our bylaw, but we’re going to find a solution, a compromise,” she told reporters.

Other Canadian pig owners have gone to court to fight for the right to keep their pets.

In 2015, an Alberta family had to part with a pot-bellied pig named Eli after a judge enforced a county bylaw that considered pigs as livestock.

The director of animal advocacy at the Montreal SPCA says pigs are “affectionate and wonderful” but aren’t suited to be companion animals for most people because of their high needs.

“They’re extremely intelligent, extremely demanding, and they certainly require much more time, energy or commitment than dogs and cats,” Alanna Devine said in a phone interview.

She worries that allowing them as pets in the upcoming bylaw would lead to an explosion of irresponsible breeding and unprepared owners, eventually adding to the city’s problem of abandoned or unwanted animals.

Instead, she hopes Montreal’s new bylaw will prohibit pigs but include a grandfather clause that will allow existing owners such as Ramos to keep their pets.