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Queens State Senator Joins Fight For Pet Pig Therapy

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Some New York City pets don't get equal protection, and the issue has pet owners and at least one state senator fighting for the rights of what they call a much maligned animal.

As CBS 2's Dave Carlin reported, 3-year-old Wilbur the pig is the star of his busy block in College Point, Queens.

"I like to feed him, and I like to pet him; I like to chase him," said young neighbor Mya Chin.

Wilbur is a service animal for owner and disabled Navy veteran Nadine Darsanlal, who was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis on overseas deployment.

Darsanlal said Wilbur kept her going.

"He's a mamas boy; loves affection," she said. "I wake up with him doing piggy kisses on my cheek."

But Wilbur won't be getting kisses from the city any time soon, instead Darsanlal is repeatedly receiving Health Department citations for keeping illegal livestock. Recently, she received one with a $500 fine, calling Wilbur a wild animal.

A judge reviewed Wilbur's badge as a certified emotional support animal, but still insisted the fine be paid.

Some who spoke with Carlin sided with the city.

"I don't think it should belong here," said David Singh, "at a farm, maybe?"

But state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens) is fighting to change the law to allow pigs the same size as Wilbur and smaller as pets in the city, as well as statewide.

"It's a cleaner animal. It's more well-trained. Why not have it?" Avella said.

The senator said he's hoping to see the day when Wilbur and other service animals have the same legal rights, Carlin reported.

"My hope for the future is to get this law passed," Darsanlal said.

To help build momentum for the law, Wilbur is going on tour to city elementary schools, hospitals, and nursing homes with the goal of cheering people up and cheering on Avella's pet pig plan.

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