A small legal battle is brewing in Coral Springs, Florida over a young boy with Down’s syndrome and his pet pig.
Heather Ray, the mother of 8-year-old Kason, recently purchased the animal for her son as a therapy pet, forgoing more traditional animals because of her husband and older son’s allergies.
6-week-old “Twinkie” became family almost immediately, they say, and has barely left Kason’s side since they bought him three weeks ago.
“You know, he does get mad. He throws fits. He doesn’t like things, and Twinkie has a very calming effect on him,” Ray explained, according to ABC News. “It mellows him out, it calms him down…It’s so good for him. He loves her so much.”
So what’s the problem? Apparently Coral Springs has an old law against raising livestock, and Twinkie’s breaking the rule.
[Heather Ray] found out that Broward County and several cities surrounding her own allowed pet pigs to be kept, and when she learned of Coral Spring’s rules, she contacted city officials to request a waiver or special exemption because of her son’s disability. On Oct. 15 officials said they couldn’t grant her request.
In a written statement to ABC News on Monday, the city’s communication and marketing director, Bob Goehrig, wrote: “A city ordinance does not allow pigs as pets. Pigs are considered livestock. If the Rays can show us there is a medical necessity and can bring documentation, we’ll be glad to look into it.”
But Ray said she’s already sent the city all the documentation they’ve requested, including a letter from her son’s doctor supporting the recommendation for a therapy pet for Kason.
In the letter, a copy of which Ray provided to ABC News, Dr. Juan Carlos Millon wrote on Oct. 23, 2012, that Kason had “certain limitations coping with stress and anxiety…I am prescribing an emotional support animal that will assist Kason in coping with his disability.”
Ray doesn’t have her hopes up about the waiver. Noting that her previous request was denied, the mother said she was previously told that she could either pay a $1,600 fine or try to change the law. If she fails to do either, she said, they “made it clear” she could be hit with a $500 daily fine.
Explaining why she’s fighting the bureaucracy, Ray explained:
“For children with special needs, anyone with special needs, acceptance is a big deal…Unfortunately in our society, you know, people with special needs just are not always accepted…an animal loves you no matter what. They don’t care what you look like, they don’t care how you talk, how you walk, you know, they don’t care, as long as you love them they love you unconditionally, so that’s very important to him, for us to have that for him.”
And just to cover all the bases, various news sites interviewed Ray’s neighbors to see if there were previously-unreported complaints to factor in.
“This is the first I heard about it,” Cicely McCracken, who lives across the street said. “I’ve got a noisy dog — a pig wouldn’t bother me.” Another neighbor said he doesn’t mind having a small pig in the neighborhood, but is concerned about letting people bend the law.
WSVN-TV has more on the story– including Ray’s threats to take it up with the Justice Department– and what they plan to do next: