By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — Teacup pigs, micro pigs, pocket pigs, purse pigs – no matter the name, the idea is the same: Adorable pigs that grow up to be no bigger than a small dog. Or do they?

Breeders have been selling “micropigs” since the 1980s, and to hear them tell it, you cannot find a better pet. Smarter than dogs, cleaner than cats, they can be potty-trained, learn tricks and go “wee wee wee” all the way to your home. Unfortunately, teacup pigs are still illegal in Wausau, and animal advocates say the entire concept of a tiny pig is a lie.

Members of the city’s public health and safety committee on Monday took a cautious approach to the subject, ultimately asking staff to research and explore the possibility of allowing such animals within city limits in the future. Statewide, only a handful of cities currently allow pet pigs: Port Washington, Waukesha and Green Bay. Ashley Bishop, the city’s humane officer, told the committee on Monday that she has already received reports of the animals living in Wausau without being licensed.

During Monday’s meeting, Becky McElhaney, who represents Dist. 6 in Wausau, said that although she is an animal lover herself she recognizes that many residents will be opposed to allowing barnyard animals within city limits. Before chickens were allowed in Wausau, some residents expressed concern that allowing fowl would ultimately lead to goats, pigs, or other animals not typically suited for city life.

“People asked then, what’s next?” McElhaney said.

Animal advocates say there is no such thing as a “teacup pig.” Many potbellied pigs are passed off as teacup pigs by breeding runts over several generations and — according to the Pig Placement Network — lying to their customers. Melissa Susko, executive director of PIGS Animal Sanctuary, said this works because pigs can breed as early as six weeks of age. Breeders then point to a piglet’s parents to show how tiny they are.

According to the Best Friends Animal Society, those minuscule pigs grow up and get much, much bigger than people bargain for. Even for pigs advertised as tiny, the average adult size is 100 pounds, and they can often reach up to 200 pounds, the society claims.

Even if the animals are allowed in the future, they would likely be subject to a tightly controlled licensing process similar to the way residents apply to own chickens and bees that would include home inspections by the humane officer.

Council President Lisa Rasmussen during the meeting stressed that the committee is only discussing the concept of pig ownership but is not taking any immediate action.

“Public feedback will be key,” Rasmussen said at the meeting.