Yes, the title of this is correct – a family is fighting for their beloved chickens! Why?, you might ask. Well, Ashleigh and Joe Hart, and their 3-year-old son, J.J., who has autism, live in DeBary, FL., a small town near Orlando. A while back, Ashleigh and Joe bought a few chickens in an effort to add fresh eggs to their meals. But they got much more than fresh eggs from the experience. What they found is that J.J., who barely spoke and had temper tantrums – and who had limited success with occupational, speech and other related therapies – had an amazing response to the chickens. He connected with them, and has brought out an outgoing boy who loves to chase after the chickens and hold them.
So that was the good news. The bad news is that their town of DeBary, as noted by the Today Show that did this segment on the family, limits the kinds of animals that can be kept in residential homes. Its city council had approved a one-year pilot program that allowed the family to keep the chickens, but that pilot program is coming to an end and city has decided to not allow it to continue. Not surprisingly, this decision was met with a lot of negative feedback, considering the great benefit these chickens have had on J.J. Many people have noted their support for the Hart family on the town’s Facebook page, and, as reported, the family has hired a lawyer to try and figure out how they may be able to keep their treasured feathered friends – plus they have created a Change.org petition.
Facing autism can be so daunting, and as parents, we would do anything and everything to help our children. How wonderful is it that the Harts found something that truly connected with their child and brought out such happiness in him. And how sad that J.J. and his family may have that taken away. Hopefully this family and their town can come to a favorable resolution.
Lynsey, Community Manager
UPDATE! Good news – it’s been reported that the City Council has scheduled a vote for Dec. 18 that will hopefully determine a resolution that would let J.J. keep his chickens as a reasonable accommodation under the Federal and Florida Fair Housing Acts.