March 22, 2013

New Yorkers boldly flout law to keep pigs

The city's health code forbids keeping them as pets, forcing pig owners to operate in secret, taking the risk that an unhappy neighbor might squeal.

Jake Pearson / The Associated Press

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Danielle Forgione walks Petey, the family's pet pig, on Thursday in the Queens borough of New York. Forgione is scrambling to sell her second-floor apartment after a neighbor complained about 1-year-old Petey to the co-op board. In November and December she was issued city animal violations and in January was told by both the city and her management office that she needed to get rid of the pig.

AP

"I do think it's probably better to live in a place where they are able to root, graze and be a pig," says Pernice, 50, who lives in a detached house with a large yard.

Exactly how many people own pigs in the city is unclear. But many connect online, creating Facebook pages for their pigs and swapping photos. One Brooklyn pig named Franklin is dressed up in Mets baseball gear and has more than 1,000 likes on his Facebook page.

Pig lovers also hope to overturn the city's ban.

They point to the case of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's daughter, Georgina, who adopted a pig from an animal shelter in New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy and brought it to Gracie Mansion on Thanksgiving Day. A spokesman for the mayor says she learned it was illegal and took it back to her home in Florida the next day.

Pig activists' strongest hope may be with New York State Sen. Tony Avella, who last month held a news conference for Petey and has called the city health commissioner to plead the pig's case — so far to no avail.

For Petey's owners, whether they live in New York City or have to move away won't change what has become a life-altering devotion to pigs.

"I've had a slab of bacon in the freezer for I don't know how long," Forgione says. "I just can't bring myself to eat it."

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