BY JOE MARVILLI
While pigs are illegal as pets in New York City, that may soon change if State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has anything to say about it.
The Senator held a rally on Feb. 19 at Little Bay Park in Whitestone, asking the Dept. of Health to change its regulations and allow certain species of pigs to be used as pets or therapy animals. Avella was made aware of this issue when Danielle Forgione told him about the City’s attempts to dispose of the family pig, Petey.
Forgione, who lives in Whitestone, got Petey last April as an emotional support animal to help her family’s grief over the loss of her brother, Peter Paz, who died in motorcycle accident. Since her six-year old son suffered from severe allergies, including animal fur, a traditional pet like a dog or cat was not an option. Instead, they went with a pig, which has a different type of hair and does not cause her child any allergic reactions.
“This was the perfect pet for us. He’s been wonderful,” she said. “He played with the kids. He’s very gentle. He’s a great addition to our family.”
Last November, the Forgiones received a notice from the Dept. of Health, telling them that having a pig as a pet is illegal and must be disposed of; otherwise the department would do it for them. On top of that, the Clearview Gardens co-op board decided to try and evict the family because of Petey. As a result, the Forgiones had no choice but to accept a stipulation in court. They are now trying to sell their home and leave the City so they can keep Petey.
“It only points out how ridiculous this is that this family is going to have to move out of the City of New York over this issue when they have a family pet that the kids enjoy,” Avella said. “I think it’s time the City recognized that whatever policy it may have started decades ago may no longer be appropriate.”
Avella also criticized the City for its different levels of enforcement on different issues, mentioning what he believes to be a lackadaisical approach to cracking down on illegal construction.
“I can’t get the City to do as much enforcement on those serious construction sites as they are doing against one family with a very small pet,” he said. “The City should be consistent in the level of enforcement it does across the board.”
Also on hand was Nadine Darsanlal, a disabled Navy veteran from College Point who got her pet pig, Wilbur, nearly two years ago. She uses Wilbur as a therapy pet and hopes he can be helpful in that role to nearby schools, nursing homes and hospitals. While the Dept. of Health has not perused any legal action yet, they have threatened her with it.
While he is calling on the Dept. of Health to review and change its regulations in regards to certain species of pet pigs, Avella also said he is considering creating legislation to resolve the problem.
Reach Reporter Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, or at email@example.com.