Boy and his pig won't be united

September 9, 2009 8:35:06 AM PDT
City leaders in Fayetteville have decided not to approve an ordinance that would allow an 8-year-old autistic boy to be reunited with his pet.Anthony Pia's pot bellied pig called "Loopey" was taken away from him this summer when city officials told his family that keeping a hog within the city limits was illegal.

Pia's family says the pig is a therapeutic tool that their son responds to, and that taking the animal away has been devastating for him. Anthony is currently only able to visit his pet on a farm outside of town when it can be arranged.

At a meeting Tuesday night, Fayetteville's city council considered a compromise ordinance that would have allowed the City Manager to consider pet pigs on a case-by-case basis. But, the idea didn't win support.

Council members said they feared they'd be opening a Pandora's Box.

"We need to be very careful before we decide we are going to change the ordinance for the whole city of Fayetteville," offered Council Member Robert Massey.

Council members said they were concerned about the possible smell and affects on neighbor's property values.

The decision shocked Pia's family who thought there would be little opposition to making an exception for a disabled child.

"My son is going to be traumatized for the rest of his life," offered Anthony's mother Lisa. "We are the ones who have to sit and watch our son suffer. How can the town do this?"

"You all don't have to live with him overnight crying about it like we do," said Anthony's stepfather Bobby Tibbetts.

The case has also caused an outcry amongst the parents of other autistic children. In an e-mail to Eyewitness News, Steven Sharp - who lives just outside Fayetteville - questioned why a pet pig was such a problem - pointing out they don't bark at all hours like some dogs do.

"The Fayetteville City Council has not only dropped the ball on this one. You guys never even got close to catching the pass," he wrote.

Pia's family plans to keep up the pressure on the city council to make a change, but members say unless someone has a major change of heart, the outcome will be the same.

In the meantime, the family will continue to take Anthony for weekend visits with Loopey at the farm.

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