Avella hopes to stymie pig eviction

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Photo gallery

Petey the pig waddles around Little Bay Park during a rally to legalize his status as a New York City pet. Photo by Christina Santucci
State Sen. Tony Avella (c.) stands with three pigs and their owners at a news conference. Photo by Joe Anuta
Petey the pig poses with his owner Danielle Forgione and state Sen. Tony Avella at a news conference. Photo by Christina Santucci
Wilbur, the pig, shows off his two teeth. Photo by Christina Santucci
Ollie the pig nibbles some Cheerios from the hand of his owner, Rocco Rinaldi. Photo by Joe Anuta
Nadine Darsanlal kisses her pig, Wilbur. Photo by Christina Santucci

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 or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 12:32 am, February 22, 2013
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Reader feedback

Puppy person from Little Neck says:
Pigs are dirty farm animals. There are dogs that do not shed and to whom people are not allergic. Sure pigs are cheaper because they eat garbage but for apts dogs are more suitable. Pigs may be cute and get you attention but get real get a dog.
Feb. 21, 2013, 11:13 am
summer from long island says:
I bet my pig is cleaner and smarter than your dumb dog.
Feb. 21, 2013, 2:14 pm
Rose from Whitestone says:
Some people could be categorized as dirty farm animals too! The pig is clean quiet and properly cared for. Leave the family alone especially if you are not personally affected by the animal!
Feb. 21, 2013, 3:25 pm
Katya from New Jersey says:
This family should have the right to live their life without any negative input from outsiders. Mind your own business, people, and make sure you yourself are clean and don't stink! I have 3 dogs, and they are my family members. They for sure are smarter, cleaner, and nicer than a lot of people I see around! If only animals could speak our language!
Feb. 21, 2013, 8:03 pm
Nadine & Therapy Pig Wilbur from College Point says:
To the puppy person who made that very ignorant statement... Do ur research before u make urself look like a fool. Even the dogs the r said to be "hypoallergenic" r really not. Common sense is that u dnt have to only be allergic to hair. All dogs have dander. That's the problem with people who have these severe allergies. My pig Wilbur & Petey help more then a dog can & r smarter. Ur comment even proves that pigs r smarter so, either learn a little something from our pigs or continue to be ignorant.
Feb. 22, 2013, 4:03 am
whitestoner from whitestone says:
To the little neck puppy person who obviously doesn't know anything about animals, Do you homework before you make idiotic remarks. There are no such thing as non allergenic dogs because those who suffer severe allergies to pet dander are allergic to these so called dogs. Pigs do not eat garbage. They require a very balanced protein diet and they are very much cleaner then dogs. You must get your information from a coloring book because pigs are highly intelligent and are being used all over the country (REPLACING DOGS) in law enforcement for narcotics investigations. Mayor Bloombergs daughter has one inside of the city, as well as hundreds more within our immediate area. So do society a favor and get educated before you want to post a comment.
Feb. 22, 2013, 4:41 pm
Eric Klein from Bronx says:
You ignorant person in Little Neck, you give pet owners a bad name. Pigs are clean and intelligent animals and actually make good watchpets. Not that I don't love dogs as well.
I'm sure your dogs hate you because your a mean- spirited, ignorant person who should mind your own business. Maybe someone should take your dogs away from you and lock you in a tiny cage so you feel the pain that millions of other animals feel every day.
Sept. 10, 2013, 4:46 am

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