City To Allow Boy With Autism To Keep Chickens
It seems J.J. Hart, a 3-year-old boy with autism, will be able to continue chasing his pet chickens around his family’s backyard after all.
City council members in DeBary, Fla. will vote Dec. 18 on a resolution that allows the Hart family a special accommodation to keep up to three hens for J.J. because of his disability.
“We’re very happy,” J.J.’s mother, Ashleigh Hart, said Wednesday. “We like to think that the chickens have been a great help in addition to everything else that we’ve done for J.J.”
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The Harts’ attorney, Mark Nation, said city officials agreed to the resolution after he threatened to sue DeBary in federal court.
DeBary’s ban on backyard chickens meant the Harts would have to get rid of J.J.’s therapeutic chickens. In effect, Nation said, that would violate the boy’s rights under the federal Fair Housing Act, Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.
“This is a 100 percent win for J.J.,” Nation said about the council considering an exception for J.J. “People with disabilities do have special needs and accommodations.”
The resolution would apply only to the Harts and not to other DeBary residents, city officials said.
About two years ago, J.J. Hart would hardly speak and often threw temper tantrums because of his autism. His parents, Joe and Ashleigh Hart, bought several chickens hoping the hens would help.
Since then, J.J. has loved playing with the chickens and is now able to communicate better because of the birds, his parents say.
But last week, DeBary Council members decided to end a one-year trial program on Dec. 31 that allowed residents — including the Harts — to keep chickens in backyard coops as pets. The Harts said they faced either getting rid of their chickens or moving out of DeBary because of the council’s action.
Mayor Bob Garcia said he supports the resolution to accommodate the Harts.
“I always felt that it was a violation of a person’s rights,” Garcia said.
Calls to other council members were not returned.
© 2013 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)
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