10/14/2014 06:07 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Navy Veteran Fined $500 By NYC For Owning A Pig As A Service Animal

A Navy veteran is being fined $500 by New York City for keeping the service animal she says keeps her emotionally healthy.

When Nadine Darsanlal reached the end of her overseas deployment, she contracted bacterial meningitis, she told HuffPost Live's Nancy Redd on Tuesday. She couldn't work, but she did find a special friend to see her through it -- Wilbur the pig.

"With the damage [the meningitis] has done, I couldn't continue working, but I've always loved helping people out, so I decided to train a therapy pig to help others out, to volunteer and go places to cheer others up," Darsanlal said.

Then she was slapped with a $500 citation from New York City for owning a "wild animal," though Wilbur is a certified service animal. Darsanlal said the penalty has become both a financial and emotional strain.

"As a disabled veteran, I'm low income. I get disability," she said. "To pay a fine for a certified animal, I feel like it's ridiculous. There are so many dogs out there that are more aggressive than Wilbur or pigs in general, and they're legal. So I don't see why pigs are illegal. They're very sweet. They're kind."

New York state Sen. Tony Avella has introduced legislation to change the regulation of pigs in the city and allow animals of Wilbur's size as pets, CBS New York reported. Darsanlal is hopeful New York will welcome Wilbur soon, and in the meantime, the animal has been residing with a friend.

That's not good enough to Darsanlal.

"As my service animal, I need him for my companionship," she said. "My dog helps me out physically, but my pig helps me out emotionally. He helps me out with just daily living. I wake up for my boys, and just to have him not staying with me all the time and being there for me, it's like a piece of my heart is missing."

Click here to watch the full HuffPost Live conversation with Nadine Darsanlal and Wilbur the pig.

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