By Paul DeBenedetto, DNAinfo Reporter/Producer
QUEENS — A Whitestone family fighting to keep a pet pig named Petey rallied Tuesday to save their porcine pal from the huff and puff of the city's Health Department — which reportedly wants the family to "dispose" of their pet.
The Forgione family was joined by state Sen. Tony Avella and other supporters at Little Bay Park in Bayside to call on the city to make exemptions for Petey and other animals like him, which are illegal to own in the city.
"Pet pigs are gaining popularity and recognition as great pets," Danielle Forgione said in a statement. "Along with having a pet comes responsibility and we are teaching our children that once you take on a commitment, you are responsible for it by any and all means necessary.”
A city health official said that pigs are permitted in a zoo, laboratory or veterinary hospital, and are allowed for exhibition with the correct permits, but may not be kept as pets. Pigs can pose health risks including rabies, the official said.
Forgione bought Petey the pig in April after the death of her brother. Her doctor recommended a pet to help with the grief, but her children are allergic to pet hair, Avella said. So they bought the pig, naming it Petey after Forgione's brother.
But after months of owning the pig, the co-op that the family lived in threatened to evict the family, according to reports.
To make matters worse, the family told the New York Post that it's received summonses from the Health Department and were even sent a notice threatening to "dispose" of their pig Petey.
“While lax enforcement is the norm at construction sites throughout the city, the city decides to go after a family and their beloved pet pig," Avella said in the statement. "Not only is the pig house-trained and well-behaved, it has helped the children deal with some very traumatic events."
Now Avella said he's going to look at changes to city law that would classify pigs like Petey as a therapy pet.
"The children shouldn’t have to suffer because they are allergic to pet hair," Avella said in the statement. "Petey has become a member of their family and the city should first explore options that would let the family keep him, rather than threaten to get rid of it.”