Five years after bringing her pet pig, Wilbur, home from a Utah breeder, Cristy Matteo of Staten Island is being forced to give him up by the end of the month.
“Someone called 311 on me, that’s how this whole thing started,” Matteo told SILive.com on Sunday. “Almost five years, and I never had a problem.”
In addition to marsupials, sea mammals and many lizards, most farm animalsare bannedin New York City.
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Matteo had a case for “harboring a wild animal” dismissed in May, but was later back in court when the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said that Wilbur needed a rabies shot to continue living in her Great Kills home.
While she did get the 180-pound pig the rabies shot, the FDA does not have an approved pig vaccination for the disease. “There is no documented case of a pig getting rabies,” Matteo said.
“Rabies cases in pigs are extremely rare in the USA,” according to the North American Pet Pig Association's website. Because most exposure to the disease would come from a run-in with infected wildlife such as skunks or raccoons, “pigs housed indoors are extremely unlikely to be exposed to the rabies virus if the other feline and canine household pets have been properly vaccinated.”
Wilbur lives alongside Matteo'sdog, Milo.In addition to being a family pet, he has also been designated an emotional support animal by the National Service Animal Registry as he comforts Matteo’s father, who is battling cancer.
Still, Wilbur has until Jan. 31 to move out, and if inspectors come to her home, and he is still there, “they will seize him,” Matteo said. “If they seize him, I’m afraid they will kill him.”
Matteo said a North Carolina refuge has offered to take Wilbur in, but she is still hopeful he can stay home.
A bill sponsored by state Sen. Tony Avella would allow pigs under 200 pounds to be kept as pets in the city, but there’s no timeline on when that could go into effect.
“The only thing I ask is that people just try to help me save my pig and come up with any kind of solution,” Matteo said. “There has to be a loophole and no one can seem to find it.”