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Ottertail woman trying to keep her unusual house pets despite city ordinance

Robyn Hagel keeps potbelly pigs in her home in Ottertail, Minn. Special to The Forum

OTTERTAIL, Minn. — The city of Ottertail and a homeowner are at odds over an ordinance that restricts the number and kinds of animals that can be kept in the city.

Robyn Hagel talked about the situation while feeding Pepper, one of several potbelly pigs that live with her in her home in Ottertail.

The pigs, Hagel said, are like family.

"They are all I have, I rescued them," she said, adding, "They are like kids, a little kid."

Penelope Rose, the largest of the pigs, "is the big one that sleeps with me," Hagel added.

According to the city, Hagel has too many pigs on too small a piece of land, and she is subject to being fined.

"Up to $1,000 a day and $75 per pig," she said.

Hagel, however, said she has a letter from her doctor that says potbelly pigs are good for her mental health.

"They are my life, like I said, they are what gets me up in the morning. They will come and wake me up," she said.

But the city of Ottertail is having none of it.

Officials say they are sticking by a 2006 ordinance that restricts animals like potbelly pigs based on the amount of land the pigs are on.

"You have to look at it, if you allow it for one, everyone will want it and at this point this is not what we are looking for," said Mayor Myron Lueders.

Hagel said the pigs harm no one. She has vowed to attend an upcoming city council meeting on Thursday, Aug. 16, where she plans to ask for an exemption from the ordinance.

Kevin Wallevand

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia and the Middle East. He is an Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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