Town Says Autistic Boy Cannot Keep Pet Chickens

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J.J. Hart's parents say the 3-year-old has been doing much better since they got the pet chickens. (Getty Images)

J.J. Hart’s parents say the 3-year-old has been doing much better since they got the pet chickens. (Getty Images)


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DEBARY, Fla. (CBS Tampa) – The parents of a 3-year-old autistic boy are facing a stark choice: get rid of their chickens or move to another town.

The Harts brought home 3 hens as a way to help J.J. engage with the world after reading about animal therapy for kids with autism.

And it’s worked, his mother, Ashleigh Hart, tells the Orlando Sentinel.

“He’s now going to a new preschool, and he’s able to communicate much better. And it all has to do with the chickens. He plays with them. He cuddles with them. And he runs around the yard with them. … It’s made a tremendous difference.”

But DeBary city council members voted to end a trial plan that allowed residents to keep chicken coops in their backyards.

Other communities in central Florida have been experimenting with letting people keep pet poultry, especially as more people experiment with using home coops to keep stocked up on fresh eggs.

Councilman Nick Koval tells the Sentinel he’s sympathetic, but chickens have no place in a residential community.

“We spend a lot of time and money establishing codes and ordinances for the protection of the citizens and taxpayers of this community. And I believe that they [chickens] belong in agricultural areas.”

The Harts have taken their plight public, even appearing on morning television to plead their case.

“We’re really not sure what we’re going to do now,” says J.J.’s father Joe Hart. “He was doing so well with the chickens, and now they’re telling us that we can’t have them anymore.”

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