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He won a Delta pig court case, but he still may not get the animals back

Did delta pigs need 'rescue'?

Back in possession of his pigs, the man who left the swine on an island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta said he now hopes to graze them on a fallow golf course behind his house. He does not own the property.
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Back in possession of his pigs, the man who left the swine on an island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta said he now hopes to graze them on a fallow golf course behind his house. He does not own the property.

The man who says he owns a litter of pigs that once lived on a Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta island won in court Monday but found himself no closer to getting his swine back.

On Monday, a Calaveras County judge acquitted Arnold resident Roger Stevenson of endangering the pigs. The pigs were taken from Stevenson by animal control officers in June after he allowed them to roam an abandoned golf course abutting his residence and the county’s main roadway, Highway 4.

Stevenson had hoped that winning the case would mean the county would return the pigs.

“The pigs were found not guilty of being on the highway,” Stevenson wrote on Facebook. In a message to The Bee, he said he felt animal control had broken a promise to return them if acquitted.

The meandering odyssey of the Delta pigs began in June when a Animal Rescue group Farm Sanctuary removed them from a 14-acre land mass that had come to be called “Pig Island” by locals who took it upon themselves to sporadically feed the pigs. Stevenson, who hoped the pigs would clear the island of vegetation, had left the animals – possibly with the owner’s permission – on the island four years earlier.

Citing concern for the pigs’ health, Farm Sanctuary took them to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine for care.

When the San Joaquin Sheriff’s Department supported Stevenson’s claim of ownership, the veterinary school immediately delivered the six pigs to Stevenson. After getting the pigs back from UC Davis, Stevenson was eager to employ his free-range pigs strategy on the overgrown golf course adjacent to Highway 4.

Days later, Calaveras County took action to remove the pigs, a process that lasted several hours. Farm Sanctuary then filed legal action in Yolo County seeking to recover the pigs. They said they received legal title to the pigs from the island’s owners.

“(Stevenson) falsely claimed that he owned the pigs, and UC Davis inexplicably turned the pigs over to Defendant without consulting Farm Sanctuary or allowing a proper determination of ownership of the pigs,” the suit reads.

Stevenson says he has not been served in the legal dispute.

Calaveras County animal control officials said that lacking the “financial and structural resources to provide long-term care for the pigs,” they turned the pigs over to Farm Sanctuary.

“Only one of the private parties asserting legal ownership in the Yolo County case is currently able and willing to provide the pigs with proper and adequate care and containment pending that court’s determination of ownership. Therefore, without making any determination as to ownership, Animal Services has transferred the pigs to that rescue organization, to be housed and cared for pending the Yolo County court’s ruling,” the department wrote in a June 29 news release.

At Monday’s court hearing, Judge Thomas Kolpacoff determined there was not enough evidence to convict Stevenson, according to the Stockton Record. But the judge did not answer the question of ownership.

A flabbergasted Stevenson left the courtroom without a clear path to get the pigs back.

“The judge threatened contempt when I thanked him for not giving advice on how to get my hogs back,” Stevenson said.

Ed Fletcher: 916-321-1269, @NewsFletch

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