A Fuquay-Varina family and a miniature-pig rescue group are upset after a Wake County sheriff's deputy shot and killed the family's mini pot-belly pig last week with a bow and arrow.
"We are completely shattered and devastated for my family," said Nicole Sickles, who owned the pet, named Blue.
Added Penny Jeffrey, owner of Pig Pals of N.C., a rescue and adoption organization for abandoned miniature pigs, "This is atrocious to us."
But Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison defended his deputy, Paul Inscore, who, Harrison said, thought he was killing a feral pig.
"What do you do when someone says they see a wild pig?" Harrison said. "What do you do when it gores somebody?"
Blue did not have tusks. Sickles said the 50-pound pig, which had escaped from the family's home, should not have posed a threat like a wild pig, which usually weighs 400 to 800 pounds.
"When you have an animal at large, you call animal control," Jeffrey said. "You don't take the matter into your own hands unless it's on your property or it's endangering someone."
Still, Sickles said she does not want Inscore to get in trouble. Rather, she and Jeffrey want to use the tragedy as a way to educate law enforcement and county residents on the differences between domesticated and wild pigs.
A pet for 11 years
Blue had been with the Sickles family for 11 years and was considered a service pet to Nicole, a brain tumor survivor, and her 5-year-old son, Adam, who has Down syndrome. He also was a friend to her four other children.
"He helped Adam build muscles, because he let Adam climb all over him and was his best friend,"Nicole Sickles said. "He used to follow Adam everywhere, and Adam used to hold on to his tail."
Like a pet dog, Blue was an indoor animal and potty trained. The family took him to nursing homes and walked him in parades,Sickles said.
Last week, Blue escaped from the family's yard and was eating grass near a neighbor's yard, Sickles said. A man walking in the neighborhood with his children saw the pig and went to Inscore's nearby home to inform him.
Harrison said the man was concerned for his kids. Inscore, who was off duty at the time, went to the area with a bow and arrow, saw the pig and shot it, according to the sheriff. Inscore then waited for his brother to come to his house and help him dispose of the pig's body, Harrison said.
Inscore, who has been on the force for five years as a road patrol deputy, did not return a message left at his home.
Finding Blue's body
Sickles, who had been in Raleigh that day, said she came home to learn that her pig had been shot. Hysterical, she went to Inscore's home, where she found Blue's body in the back of his pickup. Inscore had by then gotten dressed in his deputy uniform to go work, she said.
Harrison said he has not spoken to Inscore about the matter and that he does not know whether the deputy felt threatened by the pig.
Asked why the deputy did not call animal control, Harrison said, "The pig was in the woods, and he can'tsecond-guess.
"We looked into it, and I don't see anything he did wrong," the sheriff said.
Hunting boars is legal
According to the N.C. Wildlife Commission, which regulates hunting, wild boar are only regulated as game animals in the six mountain counties of Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon and Swain. For counties such as Wake, they can be hunted any time.
Sickles and her family are planning to lobby Wake County and Fuquay-Varina to recognize miniature pigs as domesticated pets, just as the city of Raleigh does.
Though Sickles said her heart is broken, she said she harbors no bad feelings toward Inscore.
"We have forgiven, but we have not forgotten Blue," she said.
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