Florida town strips individuals, autistic boy of right to keep backyard chickens

This should ruffle some libertarian feathers.

In a move its own mayor called a suppression of individual rights, a Volusia County town voted last week to end a pilot program that allowed residents to raise chickens in backyard coops, forcing a couple to choose between obeying the town and keeping animals they say have helped an autistic son.

jjhartchicken1209According to the Orlando Sentinel, the DeBary City Council voted on Wednesday to end the one-year program, which began after Joe and Ashleigh Hart sought a way to keep three hens at their DeBary home as a way of helping their 3-year-old son, J.J. Hart.

“He’s now doing amazing,” Ashleigh Hart told the Sentinel. “He’s now going to a new preschool, and he’s able to communicate much better. And it all has to do with the chickens. He plays with them. He cuddles with them. And he runs around the yard with them. … It’s made a tremendous difference.”

The boy calls the chickens “ducks.” According to a posting on the Facebook page Save JJ Hart’s Ducks, the story is going to be broadcast on NBC’s “Today Show” on Monday.

According to Fox affiliate WOFL in Orlando, DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia wanted to keep the program going for another year.

“If we make laws that take away rights of individuals, especially children, those laws should be abolished,” Garcia told the station. “We should be protecting the rights of individuals, not suppressing them.”

But City Council Member Nick Koval told the Sentinel the town makes laws for the good off the whole population.

“It’s unfortunate, and I sympathize,” Koval said. “But we spend a lot of time and money establishing codes and ordinances for the protection of the citizens and taxpayers of this community. And I believe that they [chickens] belong in agricultural areas.”

Joe Hart told the Sentinel he’s hired an attorney to look for ways to get the decision changed.

“We’re really not sure what we’re going to do now,” he said. “He was doing so well with the chickens, and now they’re telling us that we can’t have them anymore.”

According to the Sentinel, other towns that have allowed residents to raise chickens in residential areas include Orlando, Apopka and Maitland.

But come Dec. 31, DeBary won’t be among them.

And that’s too bad for a number of reasons, Garcia told the Sentinel.

“It had so many benefits for this child,” Garcia said. “And it would have shown that we’re a community that is compassionate and understanding.”

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About Joe Saunders

Joe Saunders, a 25-year newspaper veteran, is a staff writer and editor for BizPac Review who lives in Tallahassee and covers capital and Florida politics. Email Joe at jpjsaunders@gmail.com.

  • Liam Anlage

    “It’s unfortunate, and I sympathize,” Koval said. “But we spend a lot of
    time and money establishing codes and ordinances for the protection of
    the citizens and taxpayers of this community.

    “And I believe that they
    [chickens] belong in agricultural areas.”

    And there you have the problem…City Council Member Nick Koval
    Believes it so it should be so. Recall Nick Koval.

  • RussellG

    I would imagine that thousands of residents keep chickens in their back yards causing noise, mess and being a general nuisance. It can’t possibly be a half dozen or a dozen residents causing such a problem. This is jumping the gun I would guess??

  • Gracie Love

    Shame on, Nick Koval, you are a hate-filled, non-compassionate man and your seat should be Recalled ASAP!
    Laws are set in place for the good of the whole town, yes, sir a 3, you 3! chickens will not destroy a town, yet build its citizens to a higher level of compassion.
    Oh I hope Santa buts Coal in your stockings and your biological children ask you every minute of everyday for the rest of our life “why did you make that little boy get rid of his chickens daddy?” and let me add one more thing here you big dummy, at your children will be asking themselves, oh so quietly, in the darkness of their room as they try to go to sleep, they will be secretly asking themselves, would my daddy do that to me?
    Oh yes sir, don’t you even second guess what I write is true. Scrooge had to have his fear set alight, and so shall you.
    MERRY CHRISTMAS!

    • Doug

      On Christmas Eve he’ll be visited by the ghosts of three chickens and Colonel Sanders.

    • Ronald R. Johnson

      Someone needs to go way back and check on this guys whole life and dig up all the bad crap they can find and use it against him! He sounds like the kind of guy who would have drowned little puppies to get rid of them!

  • Cynthia J. McCoy

    This man sure has a cold heart!!! I wonder if he would feel the same if he were his child??? I bet not,

  • swedishbits

    I could understand if this were a neighborhood where homes are on tiny lots and packed close together (Balboa Island, Ca), but these lots are HUGE! I would object if my apartment neighbor had chickens, but someone who owns their own property and it’s LARGE…what’s next – dogs, vegetable gardens…?

  • Kathy

    Is this guy a democrat?

  • John Maxwell

    Koval is an idiot and thankfully a lame duck. He lost his last election and hopefully his replacement Dwyer will do the right thing.

  • David Chodzko

    and the people on this council do not realize that you can pass an ordinance and still be able to grant a variance? If they don’t understand this, they should not be on council!!

  • Hargraves Ian

    Deadbury is a town of upper class rednecks. Why would a little kids health and happiness. So long as they can piss it up on Friday and Saturday nights thats all the care!

  • rhodes autry

    “…laws for the good off the whole population.” Apparently not for the ‘whole population’.

    “…we spend a lot of time and money establishing codes and ordinances for the protection of the citizens”… and as we all know how dangerous a pet chicken can be if unleashed to terrorize the community.

    • swedishbits

      lol @ a terrorizing chicken :D