HOPKINS COUNTY, Ky. (Madisonville Messenger/KNPS)– The life of a Hopkins County potbellied pig is at the center of an unusual case surrounding public health, Kentucky law and what is or is not considered an “exotic pet.”
Mary Bedwell, of Earlington, has owned her 4-year-old pig Molly since the piglet was about 6 weeks old. Bedwell said she has always allowed Molly to come and go from their Valley Drive home like any other pet, and so far has received no complaints as her house lies on a largely unpopulated and wooded dead end road outside city limits.
On Tuesday morning, however, Molly received her first complaint. Around 7 a.m., the pig had apparently wandered less than a half-mile away to the area of Quail Run Apartments, met a neighborhood resident near a dumpster, stepped on the woman’s foot and bit her hard enough to break the skin.
Under normal circumstances, law enforcement will respond to a domestic animal bite and send for an ambulance if the wound is serious enough to warrant immediate medical attention. The Hopkins County Humane Society is then charged to review the animal’s vaccination records and whether it has a history of attacking people.
If a pet is up-to-date and does not have a history, it will often be sent home for a light quarantine, according to HCSO Maj. Will Coursey. On the other hand, if those records do not exist, Kentucky law states that animals at risk or are suspected of having rabies must be quarantined by a health officer/humane society for 10 days of observation.
The specific statute, KRS 258.085, is exclusive only to dogs, cats and ferrets.
State law gives no further instruction except for animals that are “wild or exotic.” The law orders public health officials to have the animal euthanized, decapitated and its head sent to a state laboratory for rabies testing. If results confirm a rabies infection, the bite victim will then undergo a series of postexposure injections.
In Molly’s case, HCSO deputies turned the case over to humane society officials, who have since taken possession of the pig. The woman bitten did not need emergency medical care at the scene and no incident report was prepared, Coursey said.
Molly has now been at the Hopkins County Humane Society for two days while her animal classification is being determined.
Local Public Health Director Denise Beach said there is still a chance that Molly could be considered a domestic pet. If the Hopkins County Health Department is given permission to consider her so, Molly will qualify for the 10-day quarantine and may eventually be sent back home to Earlington, granted she shows no signs of rabies infection in the meantime.
A decision should be reached within the next couple of days.