On Thursday, April 2nd 2015, Caesar — the beloved family pet of Anthony Gervasi — was sniffing around the end of the family driveway as he’d done many times before. Caesar was never destined for the dinner table. He was a pet who’d lived in the house with the family since he’d arrived, and he was have a grand time enjoying the day’s sunlight and scents.
Then a Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officer shot him.
The distraught pet owner Mr. Gervasi, was later informed that the DNR officer hadn’t made a mistake. He was, quite literally, following orders — orders which include killing pets if they step off property.
An Unconstitutional Law
You see, in 2011 the state of Michigan passed the Invasive Species Order (ISO) which defined heritage breed pot-bellied pigs as a feral invasive species — with absolutely no exemptions for those raising heritage breed hogs for farming or preserve operations.
DNR’s main purpose in issuing the ISO was to put the private hog hunting preserves out of business. The department earns revenue by selling licenses to hunt hogs on public land; private game preserves … are unwanted competition.”
The Michigan Pork Producers Association (MPPA) also invested considerable time and money having the swine ISO become law.
Enforcing the ISO and the DR against heritage breed farmers raising their pigs in the outdoors would have meant more market share for the MPPA’s confinement operation members along with greater potential to eventually monopolize the genetics of swine in the longterm.
In 2012, I wrote about how several hog ranchers had banded together to sue the state of Michigan challenging the Invasive Species Order, and the good news is that they ultimately won.
In March of 2014, Judge Thomas Solka ruled that the Invasive Species Order was both unconstitutional and unenforceable because it arbitrarily described characteristic standards for what constitutes “feral swine” that would have put thousands of the state’s small farmers out of business. These so-called standards were so nebulous and indefinable that it was virtually impossible to know which hogs were legal and which ones were not. (source)
But the Michigan DNR is appealing this ruling, despite offering no better way to actually distinguish truly feral hogs from those raised in agricultural pursuits.
And in the meantime, they are still attempting to enforce the Invasive Species Order by arbitrarily killing pet pigs if they step off their owner’s property.
According to Peter Wright, a supervisor at the Michigan DNR, “it’s never ever, ever the department’s position that we want to shoot people’s pets. If [the conservation officer] had any inkling it was a pet he absolutely wouldn’t have shot it. But at that point he didn’t know that and he was just doing his job.” (source)
But just how was the officer supposed to distinguish between a pet and a feral hog when (thanks to Judge Solka’s ruling last year) there is currently no legal description for what constitutes a feral hog?
What is to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening in the future?
What can you do to derail this unfair enforcement of an unconstitutional state mandate?
Caesar’s owner, Mr. Gervasi, wrote a heart-felt letter to the Michigan Governor Rick Snyder asking him to rescind the Invasive Species Order Amendment No. 1 of 2011.
While his story has garnered some publicity, Mr. Gervasi’s letter represents one lone voice.
I believe he has the right idea, though. We need to pressure the Michigan DNR to drop their appeal, or in the very least flood Governor Snyder with requests to rescind the Invasive Species Order.
To that end, I’ve created a petition that you can sign that will automatically email the governor’s office for you from your email address.
This is the message that will be sent:
Dear Governor Snyder,
The Michigan Invasive Species Order Amendment No. 1 of 2011 and its accompanying Declaratory Ruling were declared unconstitutional and unenforceable by Judge Thomas Solka in March of 2014.
Nevertheless, this muddled law is still on the books, and the state’s Department of Natural Resources is using their authority given by the ISO to kill so-called “feral swine” (even if, as in the case of Mr. Anthony Gervasi, those hogs happen to be pets). As of June 2014, when current DNR Director, Keith Creagh rescinded the Declaratory Ruling that so poorly and ambiguously defined the meaning of “feral,” there has been no legal description of what the illegal pigs are. This gave rise to the outrageous situation we’re experiencing today, when pet owners need to fear that DNR officers may mistake their pigs for feral swine and kill them on sight.
I respectfully request that you consider following in Mr. Creagh’s footsteps by also rescinding the Invasive Species Order.
Just use the form below to sign!
(Note: In order to send Governor Snyder email from your email address, I need to confirm the email address you provide. Shortly after clicking the orange “Sign Now” button, you’ll receive an email from me with a confirmation link. Please click on that link to email the governor and sign the petition!)
Thank you so much for letting your renegade voice be heard! It’s time we put a stop to this egregious law. Not only does its continued existence threaten all heritage breed hog owners in Michigan, but its ambiguous enforcement procedures have resulted in the killing of pets.
(photo credit: tyler brebner)