City of DeBary to decide if family can keep autistic boy's chickens

Hart family says exception should be made for JJ

DeBARY, Fla. - City leaders are meeting in DeBary on Wednesday night to decide if an autistic boy will get to keep his chickens used for his therapy.

J.J. Hart's family says the chickens have helped JJ's vocabulary and social skills and after nearly two years of not talking, JJ began crowing, imitating the birds.

But someone filed an anonymous complaint with the DeBary city officials, saying the chickens violated zoning rules and days later, the chickens were found beheaded in the Hart family's backyard. The Harts believe someone broke into their chicken coop and hurt the birds to intimidate the family. Law enforcement has said they believe another animal got into the coop.

The family will argue at the council meeting why they believe they haven't violated the code and will ask the council to allow the chickens under one of the exemptions provided by the ordinance. The Harts are allowed to keep the chickens in the meantime.

If the council doesn't allow the family to keep the chickens, they have threatened to sue.

The Harts attorney says that to deprive the autistic child of his chickens would be a violation of state and federal fair housing laws, which require that reasonable accommodations be made for people with disabilities.

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