ISHPEMING, Mich., April 8 (UPI) -- Caesar, a miniature pet potbelly pig, was fatally shot by a state Department of Natural Resources officer and the family of the pig wants justice.
Brandy Savelle and Tony Gervasi got Caesar about two years ago and had been training the animal to be outside. They posted on Facebook last week that Caesar was missing.
"When I followed the prints and saw where Moose [Savelle's dog] was, it was like a puddle of blood, at first I didn't believe it," Savelle told WLUC-TV. "I just started screaming for him."
The following day, an officer of the Department of Natural Resources arrived at the couple's door.
"We figured he had information so with excitement, Brandy answered the door asking if he knew anything about the pig," the couple wrote. "The man responded 'Actually, I am responsible for the missing pig...' Not knowing what he meant, we asked. His answer being, 'He came out of the woods at me running at a trotting pace and I felt threatened so I shot and killed him.'"
"Jaws dropped in disbelief, tears and anger flew," the couple added.
The shooting happened on state land and is permitted because the animals can carry disease and damage property, according to Peter Wright, a law supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources. He said the officer was just doing his job because he believed Caesar was a feral pig, since Caesar had no distinguishing marks labeling him as a pet.
"I want to make it very clear that it's never ever, ever the department's position that we want to shoot people's pets," Wright said. "If he had any inkling it was a pet, he absolutely wouldn't have shot it."
The couple want Caesar's body returned and have created a group called "Justice 4 Caesar The Pot Bellied Pig" on Facebook.
Since 2001, 15 feral swine have been spotted and six have been found dead, according to records in Marquette County, where Caesar was killed.
"In other parts of Michigan there may be more of an issue, but tell us again how where we are, pigs are such a problem!" the couples Facebook page states.
"To just shoot without identifying the target, I don't think that's what they should be doing," Gervasi said.
Savelle wants to make sure the Department of Natural Resources does not shoot someone else's pet.
"If it was that big of a mistake then we would like to see better training," she said. "Let's learn to identify not just pigs, but all pets."