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A northeast Queens lawmaker stood up for the Whitestone owners of a pet pig named Petey Tuesday demanding the city legalize sow ownership.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) hopes to ensure the appearance at Little Bay Park was not Petey’s swine song, since the city Department of Health ordered the pig’s owners to “dispose” of the animal in early January.
Pigs are considered farm animals and are illegal to own under the department’s health codes, according to DOH. Avella wants the city to change the law, especially since it has more important things to worry about.
“I was shocked at the amount of enforcement by the city,” he said.
Avella said he has trouble getting various departments to crack down on developers and construction companies that flaunt the law, but could not believe DOH has the time or the resources to hound pig-owning families like Petey’s owners, the Forgiones.
Avella said if the city is not willing to tweak the health code, he will seek to pass a law on the state level to give the creatures legal status in New York City homes.
The saga of their pet Petey began with a tragedy. Danielle Forgione’s brother died last spring and her father had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. To help the family cope, she and her husband decided to get a pet.
Since some of her children are allergic to pet dander, cats and dogs were not an option. Pigs, on the other hand, are hypoallergenic.
Initially her condo board approved of the idea, but after notices from the DOH in November and December, and the DOH’s order to dispose of Petey in January, the board issued the family an eviction notice.
Forgione is challenging the law and got a judge to grant her until July to find a new place to live since her children are fiercely attached to the porker.
The family had been toying with the idea of moving to Suffolk County before the pig predicament, but now some of her kids offered to sell their toys to expedite their transition.
“He’s like a brother to me,” said Joey Forgione, 13. “If something happens to him, it’s going to happen to me.”
Pigs can live legally in many rural areas, including places in Long Island, but they are illegal to keep in many East Coast cities. In Philadelphia, the are outright banned, but Boston takes a different approach.
There, ownership of the porkers is regulated by zoning. If a resident really wants to own a pig, he or she can apply for a zoning variance that the city may grant.
Nadine Darsanlal lives in College Point and said she has good reason to keep her pet pig Wilbur around. She is training it to be a therapy animal, which she could then take on tours to hospitals, for example, to cheer up ill patients. But she has also been issued notices of violation by the Health Department.
“They said they can take us to court,” Darsanlal said. “I would like this law to be amended.”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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