A Columbia man faces charges after his Vietnamese pot-bellied pig Leroy escaped and ended up at Brennen Elementary School last week.
It is the fourth time Leroy has flown the coop and ended up at Brennen, and the third time the owner, Mcgregor Wallace of the Cross Hill neighborhood, has been cited for owning a pig in the city limits and having a fugitive pet.
Those citations will be adjudicated at a hearing in a city of Columbia traffic court.
And 7-month-old Leroy is presently in custody at Columbia’s animal shelter among the dogs and cats. He faces an uncertain future.
Wallace said he is worried that Leroy is not being fed proper food and is being traumatized by barking dogs.
“It’s abuse,” he said.
Animal Control director Marli Drum, director of the city of Columbia Animal Services, confirmed Leroy’s incarceration, but wouldn’t comment further, citing Wallace’s pending court case.
Wallace said he purchased the miniature pot-bellied pig three months ago to replace a standard pig that had gotten too big. He said he has PTSD from domestic trauma and the pigs comfort him.
But Wallace said that Leroy has learned to open the gate to the yard when Wallace is away.
“He can even open the refrigerator, which is pretty cool,” he said
Leroy scampers to the school “a sand wedge away” because he wants the attention of the kids.
“He’s still a baby,” Wallace said.
Wallace, 35, who has a construction firm and operates an Ebay store, said he knows that having pigs in the city limits is illegal. But he said the pig is smaller than some dogs.
“I think the law is bull; telling me what I can and can’t have,” he said. “It’s not like it’s a tiger.”
According to the Greenville Zoo, Vietnamese pot-bellied pig are intelligent, docile and affectionate.
“They have become so popular that there are now more pot-bellied pigs in the United States than anywhere else in the world, even though they only started to be imported from Asia in 1985!” the zoo notes on its website, adding that they have a life span of 12-15 years.
However popular, the pigs are illegal to keep inside the Columbia city limits, according to livestock ordinances.
Caitlyn Viars, a 2014 University of South Carolina grad, can feel Wallace’s pain.
Viars didn’t know that the pigs were illegal when she, on a whim, purchased a baby pot-bellied pig for $40 from a petting zoo at a traveling carnival in 2012.
She named the pig Donna and raised it at her house in Rosewood.
“She was just a great pet,” said Viars, a product development manager for an apparel company who also skates with the Richland County Regulators roller derby team under the name Barney Rebel.
“She was extremely smart. As smart or smarter than my dog,” Viars said. “She was house trained and would use the restroom in one part of the yard. I was able to harness train her. And she would snuggle up to me. I enjoyed that.”
But the smart pig also would figure out ways to escape from the yard. And finally Viars got a note from animal control that Donna needed to find another home. Donna and Caitlyn both found another home — in Irmo.
“I went through a ton of hassle for not doing my research,” Viars said.
Wallace has posted an apology for letting Leroy escape on social media.
“I want to apologize to my neighbors for being a pain in the butt,” he wrote. “I will now make sure to be a more productive neighbor. If anyone could help me with getting Leroy back that would be great!”
He told The State that if he can get Leroy back, “my yard will be sealed like Fort Knox.”
Richland District 1 spokeswoman Karen York confirmed that the pig showed up at the school and was kept in a fenced kindergarten playground away from the students until animal control officers arrived.
“The pig did find its way from the gentleman’s residence to the campus,” she said. But “no one was playing with the pig.”
Court records show that Leroy first got lose in early August. Wallace was charged with “having an animal at-large” and having an unauthorized animal.
Later last month, Leroy scampered again and visited Brennen uninvited. Wallace was charged a second time for “keeping hogs.”
Friday, Leroy made another unscheduled visit to the school. This time, Leroy ended up in the hoosegow and Wallace faces further charges.
Wallace is scheduled to go to court in October. Each citation carries fine of more than $1,000, he said.
Leroy’s fate is unclear.
“I can’t pay $4,000,” Wallace said. “Maybe I can work something out. I just want to get my pig back.”
Travis Bland contributed to this story.