Miniature horses an issue

Published 9:57 am Thursday, April 28, 2011

Amy Pitts of Darden Mill Estates outside Courtland pets her dog, Blossom, as her miniature horse, Pumpkin, Lucky and Scooter graze in the pasture. Pitts and her husband, Bobby, will have to appear before Southampton County officials if they want to keep their three minuture horses at their home on Darden Point Road. GWEN ALBERS/TIDEWATER NEWS

COURTLAND—Bobby and Amy Pitts call their miniature horses Pumpkin, Lucky and Scooter pets.

A Southampton County ordinance says they’re livestock, which is not allowed in areas zoned for single-family homes like Darden Mill Estates where the Pitts live.

“Some of the neighbors’ dogs are bigger than they are,” Bobby Pitts said.

A neighbor turned in the Pitts family for having the horses, said Beth Lewis, the county’s director of Community Development.

The Pitts must now appear before the county Planning Commission in hopes of keeping the horses at their home, which sits on 2½ acres and abuts a farm. They will have a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 12, at the Southampton County Office Center in Courtland.

The Pitts will be asking for a conditional-use permit — an exception that would allow them to keep their stable, thus their horses.

“It doesn’t speak to the animal, just to the stable,” Lewis said.

The Pitts’ situation mirrors one Dr. Alan Edwards and his wife, Erin, faced late last year. In November, the Board of Supervisors voted 7-0 to give the Edwards permission to put up a chicken coop for their brood, stipulating the chickens be in a pen.

Bobby Pitts said he had no idea he violated the county’s zoning ordinance, nor does he consider his horses livestock.

“And again, if it’s wrong, it’s wrong,” he said.

The Pitts had kept the horses at a stable, but a change in finances and personal issues made that tough, so they moved their horses to their home on Darden Point Road.

Bobby Pitts is a former International Paper employee, whose income has dropped with his new job. In addition, Pumpkin requires extra care due to a birth defect. Having her at their home makes it easier.

“(Besides) we want them with us. They’re pets,” Bobby Pitts said. “I didn’t know this was going to be an issue. It’s nothing I was trying to do under the radar.”

The Planning Commission will make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, who will make the final decision.