CANAJOHARIE — At nearly 5 years old, Ellie sure has been involved in more than her fair share of legal troubles and media attention.
But, not much has changed. She still spends ample time around the house and in the backyard.
That makes sense, because Ellie is a 110-pound potbellied pig.
“She’s great, she’s great,” said Ellie’s owner, Wyverne Flatt. “She’s sleeping at the bottom of my stairs right now.”
For two years, the village of Canajoharie waged a legal battle against Flatt on grounds of violating municipal animal regulations. The case was thrown out on Aug. 1, 2022, per a request from village counsel seeking to “pursue other avenues,” according to Palatine Court Judge Ronald Dygert.
“I’m just glad it’s over,” said the 55-year-old owner. “I never understood why it started in the first place.”
Flatt received Ellie as a present a year before migrating to the Mohawk Valley from South Carolina. As Flatt was reeling from a tough divorce, cuddling with the Vietnamese swine provided consolation.
A code enforcement officer found what the town considered to be an illegally harbored pig in October 2019 while inspecting Flatt’s downtown property, the lower half of which he planned to turn into a Tex-Mex restaurant.
Through United Support Animals, Flatt registered Ellie as an “emotional support animal” in May of 2020. He argued that the pig’s designation superseded local regulations.
Village Health Officer Kenneth Riley wrote in a 2020 letter that he met with a provider who “agreed this is not appropriate or healthy for the patient and has agreed to rescind her support of his keeping this ‘emotional support pig.’”
“When we first went to court, I thought I’d be there one time and this would be waxed over,” Flatt said. “Don’t get me wrong, if Ellie was a problem, a nuisance, made noise, bit somebody or had a smell or something, I could understand some concern. But, in this case, none of that applies.”
The case was argued mostly in Palatine Court because Canajoharie’s judge had a conflict of interest, according to Dygert.
“That’s how it got here,” the judge said with a laugh. “Lucky me.”
At one point, Flatt faced up to six months behind bars in a criminal trial in March. The trial was adjourned due to the village looking for more time, the Palatine Court judge reported.
Flatt’s situation was picked up by major news outlets including National Public Radio, the New York Post and Fox News. At the time, Flatt experienced an outpouring of support from local business owners and neighbors.
From time to time, animal regulations have resulted in public uproar. The town of Rotterdam passed a local law conditionally allowing single-family households to own chickens after one resident and supporters, upset over a hen-related complaint, influenced public opinion.
Flatt is convinced the village government’s “ridiculous” response to his pig should result in a political reckoning against officials up for re-election this year.
Canajoharie Mayor Jeff Baker didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.
Deputy Mayor Francis Avery said that he hasn’t heard much about the status of the pig case as of late.
Meanwhile, Flatt’s hopes of opening up a Tex-Mex establishment are on hold. He’s mainly focused on renovating his multi-unit building, a low-cost property he found online three years ago, which enticed him to move to Canajoharie.
“It might [happen], but I’m not in any big rush,” Flatt said. “I’m getting by fine. I don’t necessarily have to work full time to survive.”
A self-described ”semi-retired” man, Flatt works part time at Jim’s Irish Harbor Pub and occasionally picks up carpentry side jobs.
While he loves his surrounding community, climate, terrain and seeming lack of “crazy racism,” it’s unclear if he’ll live out the rest of his life in the state.
“When I decide I’m ready to fully retire, I’m not sure New York is the best place — unless you’re a zillionaire — to retire,” Flatt said.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-527-7659 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TylerAMcNeil
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