DeBary, Fla. (CBS TAMPA) — An autistic Florida boy who kept pet chickens as a means of therapy is facing heartbreak after local criminals broke onto their property and decapitated the animals.

J.J. Hart kept four chickens at his DeBary, Florida home, which he referred to as his ‘ducks’ as part of his therapy, helping him to break through his autism. Now his family must break the devastating news to him, that his beloved pets were brutally killed.

A legal battle had begun last week, when code enforcement officials told the Hart family the chickens had to go, granting them a two-week period in which to appeal a potential $100-a-day fine. But as the family decided what to do with the matter, local criminals decided for them.

The bloody discovery was made by J.J.’s father, Joseph, who immediately rang the police upon seeing the two hens and two juvenile chickens dead in their coop at around 9 a.m. on Saturday.

The chickens had played a major role in young J.J’s development, they told Click Orlando, helping to improve both his vocabulary and social skills.

“It was kind of a breakthrough, like he actually reacts to the chickens and makes noises we couldn’t get him to make ourselves,” Mr Hart told Click Orlando.

Now they fear how he will respond to the news of their death.

“He’s actually socializing and babbling. I don’t know how he’s going to react to this. I don’t know if he is even going to able to understand,” she said.

As police investigated the slain fouls, Ms Hart struggled to keep the youngster inside as he asks repeatedly to see his pets.

The necks of some of the carcases bore what looked to be teeth marks, a police report stated, though the family is convinced it was no animal attack.

“I would much rather it have been an animal attack,” she added. “Though I know whoever did this is an animal.” Aside from that, however, there are few leads. The Harts have never had any trouble with neighbors, they said, nor had they been threatened in the past.

There was no sign of a forced entry, police told the Daytona Beach News-Journal, but the family observed two bricks and a piece of wood blocking the entrance to the coop.

The decapitated chicken heads have not yet all been recovered.


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