Boy With Austim Devastated After City Bans Pet Pig

Photo: Autistic Boy Devastated After City Bans Pet Pig: Family Says Pot Bellied Pig Helped Anthony Pia Function with Autism

Loopey might be an unorthodox best friend, but she's a good one.

She was sweet and playful and didn't seem to notice her buddy's quirks like others did.

Now, more than a year after Loopey -- a black pet pot-bellied pig -- made fast friends with 8-year-old Anthony Pia, the autistic boy's parents are battling their city's ban on hogs.

Video: N.C. city council votes to ban boys pet pig.
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It's been three months since Lisa Pia and Bobby Tibbetts, fearing fines from the city, removed Loopey the pig from their Fayetteville, N.C., home and took him back to the ranch where they got her.

While they plead with city leaders to allow Loopey to come home, Anthony, Tibbetts said, continues to regress into the troubling behaviors the 80-pound pig helped ameliorate.

Before they brought Loopey home, Anthony had trouble with head and hand shaking, bed-wetting, sleeping and interacting with other people. His connection to Loopey, Tibbetts said, was immediate.

"He stopped wetting the bed," he said. "He came home every day and talked to her because she wouldn't say anything [bad.]"

Devastated by the loss of his friend, Anthony isn't calmed by daily visits to the ranch 35 miles away.

"Right now, he has this mentality that everybody in the world is out to get him," Tibbetts said, adding that he found the second-grader screaming in his room one night "asking Jesus to take him."

Fayetteville Councilman Keith Bates, one of Anthony's supporters, said those in favor of letting the boy keep Loopey never wanted to change the ordinance, but instead give the city manager the opportunity to rule on these situations on a case-by-case basis.

A Council motion to do just that, he said, ended in a 5-5 tie vote and was thrown out due to lack of majority.

"This wouldn't have hurt the city one bit," Bates told ABCNews.com. "It's a shame when we had the opportunity ... to help the child, especially a disabled child and we didn't do this."

Bates said the other five who voted against the motion "are worried that if we allow one prohibited animal breed into the city limits then anyone can bring one in."

It was a sentiment echoed by Councilman Robert Massey, who voted against the motion.

"We need to be very careful before we decide we are going to change the ordinance for the whole city of Fayetteville," he said, as reported by ABC's Fayetteville affiliate, WTVD.

Helping Anthony Find His Comfort Zone

Tibbetts said that his wife suspected her son might be autistic when he was still an infant. But after the formal diagnosis, the two began researching the growing trend of using animals to help children with autism.

The couple already had a cat which Anthony found boring and a small dog whose movements sometimes scared him. So they drove him to a ranch to visit a variety of animals and the little boy took an immediate liking to the pigs.

In June of 2008 they brought Loopey home, then just a month and a half old. She was quickly housetrained and the family was diligent about bathing the pig.

At night she slept either in the living room or in Anthony's room, Tibbetts said, and the two bonded over a shared dislike of thunderstorms. They considered Loopey their son's medicine.

"When you find something that helps them you roll with it," he said of children with autism. "That's what we did."

And Tibbetts said they thought they had done their homework. In addition to researching how to properly raise a domestic pig, they checked with the city's animal control officer.

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