Despite citations, several swine owners are refusing to fork over the pork.
State Senator Tony Avella wants to overturn city guidelines prohibiting residents from owning domesticated pigs as pets after constituents squealed for support.
“I try to get the city to crack down on illegal construction, illegal contractors where workers have died, where neighboring property owners have been disenfranchised and they have to sue, and I can’t get the city to do as much enforcement on those serious construction sites as they are doing with one family with a very small pet,” said Avella.
“The city should be consistent with the level of enforcement it conducts across the board.”
Lou and Danielle Forgione picked up their porky pal after Danielle’s brother Peter was killed in a motorcycle accident in March 2012. Searching for a pet to lift the spirits of their six saddened children proved tricky when their six-year-old son Nicky displayed a severe allergy to pet dander. A pediatrician suggested they consider a pig. Ten months ago, the Forgione’s adopted Petey, named after Danielle’s late brother.
“[Petey] brings joy right back to us,” said Lou. “The kids were suffering in school. My wife was suffering from depression and anxiety. It brought the cheer right back to the family. He’s doing his job and he’s fantastic. You can’t ask for anything more.”
Since adopting Petey, the Forgiones have received several citations from the Health Department, including one that asked they “dispose” of their beloved pet. The co-op board of their Whitestone complex recently threatened to evict the family. Rather than relinquish Petey, the Forgione’s set their sights on more “pig friendly” pastures, selling their home and moving to Suffolk County.
“We really love him,” said Joseph, the Forgione’s 13-year-old son. “He’s a part of our family. He’s like a brother to me.”
Avella believes the rule against owning a pig is a Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) regulation, rather than a law that will need to be amended.
Navy veteran Nadine Darsanlal takes her 50-pound pet pig Wilbur to visit patients at hospitals and nursing homes and students at elementary schools. Darsanlal, who while in the service contracted bacterial meningitis that paralyzed her stomach and left her requiring the use a feeding tube and a pain pump, said she was “shocked” to discover the city outlawed ownership of the animal that brought happiness to her life and the lives of others.
“[Pigs] are gentler, they’re kinder, they’re more intelligent and they’re cleaner. They are just lovely animals to have,” said Darsanlal. “Not only does he help me out but I kind of want to give back and help others out.”
The College Point resident trained her precious piggy to complete small tasks, including retrieving items Darsanlal accidentally drops to keep her from having to painfully bend over. While Wilbur provides physical assistance, it’s the emotional support he gives that makes him more than just a pet.
“He’s a companion. He gets me up and going in the morning and helps me not think about my illness,” said Darsanlal. “It’s a lot that I’m dealing with, but I can deal with it because I’ve got my little baby.”