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Animal Controversy: An Autistic Boy And His Therapy Chickens

It has been an emotional couple of years for the Hart family. Once their youngest son, JJ, was diagnosed as autistic they committed themselves to doing whatever they needed to do to help him. After being advised to try anJJ and one of his chickens (You Tube Image)JJ and one of his chickens (You Tube Image) organic diet they decided to raise their own chickens for a steady supply of eggs. Once they had installed the chickens in a coop in their back yard they discovered the true benefit the birds brought with them. JJ started opening up and communicating, first with the chickens and then with them.

As wonderful as this was for the Hart's, it came with a tremendous downside -- the area where they live in DeBary, Florida, is not zoned for agriculture. After an anonymous complaint in 2012 the Hart's were told that they had to dispose of the chickens. Before the Harts could act the chickens were slaughtered there in the yard that October. To be fair, there is a chance that the birds were killed by animals rather than by vindictive humans.

Outraged members of the community began campaigning for people to be allowed to keep a limited number of chickens in their yards. In 2012 the DeBary city council voted to give the Hart's a one year allowance while they Mom helps JJ get settled to cuddle a chicken (You Tube Image)Mom helps JJ get settled to cuddle a chicken (You Tube Image)considered the problem. Earlier this month they voted to ban the chickens and the Harts were given notice that the chickens must be disposed of by December 31st.

The Hart's reached out to the nation for support for their son and his chickens. After a report on the issue on the Today show, as well as a threat of a lawsuit from the family's attorney, the DeBary city council has backed down. They are planning an additional vote on December 18, at 6 p.m., in which they are expected to allow 3-year-old JJ to keep his friends and therapy partners, at least as a special accommodation for this case only.

The mayor of DeBary, Bob Garcia, has gone on the record as being in favor of the special accommodation in this case. "I always felt that it was a violation of a person's rights," he said.

For JJ the chickens have helped him learn to connect with the world around him and begin communicating rather than just throwing temper tantrums out of frustration. Now it appears that Snow, Cinnamon, and Ginger get to remain a part of the Hart family -- and it looks like they are all going to have a very merry Christmas this year!

Sources: The Washington Times, examiner.com, Orlando Sentinel, Mail Online, Facebook

Laurie Kay Olson
Animal News Blogger

Dec 17, 2013
by Anonymous
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I am so glad to hear that he

I am so glad to hear that he is going to get to keep his chickens - It seemed such a shame to lose animals that were so helpful. As a parent with a child on the spectrum I was outraged that he was going to have to give up something that truly helped him.

I would also like to mention a great website for families impacted by autism, www.asd-dr.com is designed to help families find the treatments, therapists and services they need in the local area. It also has a lot of links to online support through links to organizations, forums and other references.

Dec 17, 2013
by Laurie Kay Olson
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I so agree about JJ being

I so agree about JJ being able to keep his animals. Autism is a difficult thing to deal with and there is no handbook out there to tell you exactly what will work. My nephew, Collin, is autistic and though he is 18 now, it has been a long haul and we were always so thankful when anything helped improve his life. If chickens had been the answer we would also have fought tooth and nail to make sure he had chickens!

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