Battle over therapy pig continues

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Brittany Shammas

Published August 11, 2014

Community members have been rallying around a family fighting their homeowner's association to keep their potbellied therapy pig, but the legal battle continues to brew.

Eric and Rori Halpern have mounted a campaign to convince their association to let 65-pound Wilbur stay, saying he helps their two young children and others in Palm Beach County. They've also filed a housing complaint with the Palm Beach County Office of Equal Opportunity, which is investigating whether there's reason to believe a discriminatory housing act was committed.

The couple has won the support of nearly 1,100 people who have signed an online petition, and County Commissioner Shelly Vana, who spearheaded a 2012 county ordinance change that categorizes potbellied pigs as domestic animals.

Still, eight months into the dispute, an attorney for the Cypress Woods Association says the Halperns have not proven their two young sons need the animal, which he says is livestock and violates community rules.

"Short of the Halperns proving that their children are handicapped as defined by law, the association has an obligation to enforce the pet regulation in its governing documents," attorney Ryan Aboud said.

He said public support and media attention don't change the facts of the case.

"The issue is far more simple than any than any question about whether pigs are liked or disliked," Aboud said. "It's simply a matter that the governing documents prohibit pigs in the community."

Letters from doctors saying both the Halpern children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and one with Asperger's, do not provide enough information, Aboud said. He said he is still trying to investigate whether the Halpern children have "handicaps" that might require an exception to the neighborhood's rule banning livestock.

The Halperns said the letters from doctors are sufficient under the Fair Housing Act. They also point to the Palm Beach County potbellied pig ordinance as proof that the animals are domestic, and not livestock.

"We just want to get this resolved and go back to normal life," Eric Halpern said. "But it's just been in limbo for months and months."

He also said the family has been fined $1,000 by the association's management company for keeping the pig. Aboud said he wasn't aware of the fines and couldn't comment on it. Board member Shawn Radka also said he couldn't comment.

The management company could not be reached.

The family, now represented by an attorney pro bono, has been handing out pink wristbands that read, "Let Wilbur Stay" and say they've won the support of some in their neighborhood.

They also started a website,, and a Facebook page, Wilburr Bacone vs. the Cypress Woods HOA. Wilbur also has a Twitter page.

Eric Halpern said he and Rori will continue to fight the association.

"We're not going to give Wilbur up," Eric Halpern said. "He's a member of our family for life."

Family fighting homeowner's association to keep pet pig