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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