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Attention hog? Is Nadine Darsanlal using disability to skirt the law?

Wilbur and Nadine: A hog for attention?

Picking a fight shouldn't be something that people with disabilities goes out of their way to do unless there is a reason, but it's hard to say just what that reason is in the case of the Nadine Darsanial of Queens, New York. The Navy veteran already had a service dog, Harvey, but she thought he needed a companion. So she got a pig and named it Wilbur.

Not another dog, not a dog-friendly cat. Darsanial wanted a pig. She wanted a pet pig in a city where pigs are not legal. Her ownership has not been cleared by the Health Department. They have served her notification. The pig isn't registered for Queens. Wilbur is registered in Suffolk. Wilbur wasn't trained as a certified emotional support animal. Darsanial had to pay for Wilbur to be trained.

Darsanial has had someone complain about her pig according to CBS reports. She has joined forces another woman, Danielle Forgione who, according to a news release from State Senator Tony Avella, bought the pig to help her children deal with "anxiety and stress of having their uncle suddenly pass away in a motorcycle crash and their grandfather suffering from cancer." Avella is looking to propose a bill that would make it legal for people town a small pig and limit the number of two per household.

There are logistical problems. Although rabies is rare in pigs, it can occur and there is no known rabies vaccine for pigs. What about other zoonotic diseases?

There are other logistical problems. Let's do the math.

In 2012 in the state of New York, there were 164 fatal motorcycle crashes according to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. It isn't clear how many of these fatalities had brothers, sisters, parents, nephews, nieces, sons daughters, etc. That would likely significantly multiply the number of people each year who would be able to apply for emotional support pigs. On the conservative side, we can calculate 150 multiplied by two parents for an estimate of 300 people annually who might file for an exemption.

Each year, according to the NYS Cancer Registry, 100,000 New Yorkers as diagnosed with cancer. That would bring our total of potential pig owners to 100,150 per year.

The Animal Care and Control of NYC euthanized over 6,000 animals in 2012. Should New York decide to legalize the ownership of pigs, then will these animals add to the number of euthanized pets? Will there be a provision for extra training and ensuring all animal control facilities will be able to intake pigs. Pigs are not comfortable on concrete floors and because of their instinct to dig, facilities with dirt might not hold them.

If someone like Darsanial has enough money to purchase a pig and have it trained, she could have also purchased another dog. Forgione could have purchased a dog, cat or rabbit to be an emotional support animal as well.

Darsanial already had a service dog. According to reports, her original reason for acquiring the pig was for her service dog, Harvey. The latest reports don't seem to include any mention of Harvey or why a pig was deemed a better companion animal for Harvey or why Harvey needs an emotional support animal. If Harvey needs an emotional support animal, perhaps Harvey needed better training or Darsanial and Harvey don't really need Wilbur at all.

Wilbur has his own Facebook page. Harvey does not.

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