For most people, a pot-bellied pig is hardly an exotic pet: they're really cute and smart.
But it is an animal that is not your average pet. And when a resident near the High School who owns the porker native to Vietnam wanted to know if the town would allow it, the Board of Health discovered that it didn't have the regulations to say one way or another if it was
For that reason, the Belmont Board of Health has drawn up a draft bylaw that will place restrictions on residents who have a hankering to raise exotic pets, which is a species which is non-indigenous to the area.
"We want to have something as people get more exotic" in the pets they own, said Board Chairman David Alper.
"It's a way to protect ourselves," said Board Member Donna David.
Alper said while no one the town knows of has any lions or tigers or bears, that is not to say that animals and reptiles are not part of the town's makeup. Belmont's only registered horse that was stabled near Waverley Square left only a year ago. In addition, the town has been home to llamas, an albino boa constrictor and other pets that only an owner could love. In ten-foot snake was run over on Common Street.
Not that animals are not allowed in the town. There is a herd of sheep and goats on Weeks Meadow just off Somerset Road on Belmont Hill, a collaboration with Habitat and a breeder of Border collies. In addition, bees are kept on the former Sergi's Farm and on Winn Street and there are a number of chicken coops around town. Each of those are regarded as 'agriculture' and protected as long as the population doesn't get too large.
And while the issue with the pig has been settled – it's being allowed to stay in Belmont – the Health Board wanted to get "a preemptive strike" on the growing trend of "fad" pets and people who decide to own them
"It crops up from time to time so we should have something on the books," said board member Robert Eisendrath.
"We just don't know how to handle them," said David.
Today, a low estimate of 15,000 people in the US own exotic pets that range from snakes and other reptiles, monkeys, chimps, bears and tigers. And without regulations in place, communities in Ohio and Connecticut have found themselves in situations where wild animals can get loose or turn on humans.
The state already has licensing regulation that requires a resident to be licensed to raise or breed them.
And existing zoning requirements on sufficient square footage needed to house a pet like a horse or larger animal has limited what can stay in town, said Alper.
"But there are smaller pets that we need to be aware of, from a pot-bellied pig or snakes and even monkeys," said Alper.
The exotic animal regulations have been presented to town counsel and will be discuss at the Board's next meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 29.