Avella: 'These Animals Should Be Considered As Therapy Animals'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A Queens family, with the help of State Sen. Tony Avella has called on the New York City Health Department to modify its ban on pet pigs.

Danielle Forgione said she legally bought Petey the miniature Juliana pig last year to help her children cope with the sudden death of their uncle.

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“We had gotten Petey as an emotional support animal to help soothe our family’s grief,” Forgione told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman. “He plays with the kids, he’s very gentle.”

But the city has since cited Forgione for harboring an illegal animal.

“We were ordered to dispose of him or they would come in and dispose of him,” Forgione said. “We’re trying to sell our home, move out of the city so it’ll be OK to keep our pet.”

Forgione said her son is allergic to fur, so more traditional pets like a dog or a cat were out of the question for her family.

“We really love him. He’s like a brother to me,” said Forgione’s 13-year-old son Joseph.

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City Health Code prohibits “the possession and/or harboring of pig species.” Avella said the city should explore options that would allow the family to keep the pig.

“Workers have died and I can’t get the city to do as much enforcement as they have against one family,” said Avella.

“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,” said Avella. “These animals should be considered as therapy animals if properly trained.”

Avella added that if the Health Department does not change the rule, he will consider legislation.

“I think most people would say ‘yeah, why not?'” said Avella.

The Forgione family previously launched an online petition at Change.org calling for a modification to the New York City animal law.

Another Queens woman who owns a mini pet pig has also been cited by the Health Department. Nadine Darsanlal, a Navy veteran, said her pig Wibur is a therapy animal.

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