Family Fights To Keep Son’s Emotional Support Ducks
Nibbles and Bill are the names of two emotional support ducks for a 12-year-old boy at a lakeside home in Georgetown Township, Mich.
Dylan Dyke, who has autism, “loves ducks so much” and “thinks about them often,” his parents say — so much so that the family set up a Facebook page in 2016 dedicated to “Dylan’s Duck Adventures.”
Photos on the page show the boy feeding, petting and swimming with the two quacking, waddling water birds. The boy’s psychologist, Eric Dykstra, tells WOOD-TV the ducks “provide the opportunity for him to practice emotional regulation.”
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But neighbors in the area have filed complaints, upset over the ducks, and now Dylan’s parents, Mark and Jennifer Dyke, find themselves in a legal battle to keep their son’s ducks at their home.
The family took to Facebook to post about what was going on when they received a letter in May.
“This is what mean people do,” the family wrote in a statement with a photo of a letter from the township. “Try to take away one of the greatest joys a 12 year old autistic boy has, his ducks.”
Initially, the family said they were notified the ducks would need to be removed from the property by June 6 because the ducks and the animals’ outdoor pen violated homeowner’s association rules and a zoning ordinance. Since then, they’ve sought legal help, and now the issue remains under review.
Redacted copies of two complaints obtained by WOOD-TV argue the ducks should live inside the home.
“…we have to smell and look at duck waste, hear quacking and look at a messy pen that includes a permanent baby pool and extra large baby gate. It looks terrible and is quite an eye sore…,” one complainant wrote June 11.
Another person, who said they were a board member of the Cory Estates Homeowner’s Association, said they “empathize with the situation” involving the boy and his ducks, but went on to say on May 14 that the fence is “unsightly” and the ducks “often stray from the property and defecate on others lawns, beaches, and patios.”
In a Facebook post May 25, the family shared photos of the ducks’ setup. They say Nibbles and Bill stay in an enclosed area under their deck at night, and during the day, they are let out into a fenced-in area in the backyard.
A meeting with the township’s zoning board of appeals deciding the fate of Dylan’s ducks is scheduled Aug. 22, according to the township’s website. The family is requesting an ordinance variance.
“Mark and Jennifer Dyke … have applied to allow the keeping of two ducks characterized as emotional support animals,” the meeting agenda notes online. “The request requires a variance from Section 3.4 of the Georgetown Charter Township Zoning Ordinance, which governs accessory buildings and uses in residential districts, including the keeping and regulation of certain birds, and which currently permits the keeping of chickens but does not include ducks.”
In the meantime, the family has set up a GoFundMe page sharing Dylan’s story. They say the donations will be used to help cover lawyers’ fees. It’s raised more than $500 out out their $4,600 goal so far.
“We live here. We want to get along with everybody as much as we can,” Mark Dyke said in an interview with WOOD-TV. “But at the same time, we need to advocate for our special needs son.”
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