Famed Pig ‘Wilbur' Gets to Stay With Staten Island Family a Bit Longer

Wilbur the pig has caught a break.

The city was ready to seize the pet pig from a Staten Island family by midnight Tuesday. But health officials decided to give the Matteo family some more time to find a place for Wilbur to stay that wouldn't violate city rules. 

His presence inside the Great Kills home still technically breaks the law. But for now, the 180-pound pig gets to stay. 

New York City health officials had ordered Christy Matteo to get rid of Wilbur by Jan. 31. Matteo called the situation "heartbreaking," noting that the pig has become a member of the family since she brought him home from Utah five years ago.

"He's like my child," she previously told NBC 4 New York. "He's very emotional, he's very caring."

At the time Matteo bought Wilbur, New York City's rules about livestock were vague. Now pigs are illegal to own in the five boroughs. But as Wilbur grew, he also gained a role as a therapy animal for Matteo's father, who's undergoing cancer treatment. 

Wilbur is so much of a comfort to her dad, the National Service Animal Registry has deemed him an "emotional support animal". Her father's oncologist has even said that he's helped keep his stress levels down, according to Matteo.

"As soon as my father would walk into the house, Wilbur would lay down in front of him and my father would rub his belly for an hour just trying to take his mind off of the radiation treatment he had all day," she said. "He's no harm to anybody, he stays in the house 95 percent of the time wrapped up in a sleeping bag all day."

A spokesman from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has said that the DOH issued several warnings to Matteo prior to issuing the August 2016 order. The spokesman added that she agreed to have Wilbur sent to a sanctuary and chose the location in November.

The Department said the Board of Health mandated that pigs remain on the list of prohibited animals because there's no USDA-approved rabies vaccine for pigs.

No one from the city called Matteo to let her know that Wilbur wasn't being immediately seized. She found out the news from reporters, she said Tuesday. 

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