DeBary officials vote unanumously for chicken program exemption

3-year-old J.J. Hart's family asked for special accommodation to program

DEBARY, Fla. - DeBary officials voted unanimously on Wednesday to make an exception to the city's backyard chicken ordinance for an autistic boy and his family.

The city said the Hart family will get to keep their chickens, days after the council voted to end the 1-year pilot backyard chickens program.

A final vote was needed to make the exception official under the Florida Fair Housing Act.

Joseph Hart says the chickens have helped his 3-year-old son, J.J., make tremendous progress. A physician recommended getting the chickens to help with therapy for the boy and the family's attorney says JJ has a prescription for the chickens.

The Harts have been fighting to keep the chickens on their property since 2012. Last year, 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.

People opposed to the exception say that allowing the Hart family to have the chickens is opening the door for others to come to the council for special reasons they need animals.

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