It often seems that government bureaucracy hinders, rather than helps, non-traditional treatments for autistic and other disabled children. Yet another glowing example of this phenomenon reared its head last week, when the Orlando Sentinel reported that J.J. Hart, an autistic 3-year-old may not be able to keep the three chickens that his parents brought home to help J.J. cope with his autism.
The reason for this is that DeBary, Florida, City Council members decided to end a one-year trial program on Dec. 31 that allowed residents to keep chickens in backyard coops, all two of them that applied for a permit. This decision seems to go against the prevailing trend of the growing number of Central Florida governments that are allowing their residents to build backyard coops to gather fresh eggs from their feathered pets.
J.J.’s parents told the Orlando Sentinel that he has been more talkative and calmer since they brought brought the three hens home. “We’re really not sure what we’re going to do now,” said Joe Hart, J.J.’s father. “He was doing so well with the chickens, and now they’re telling us that we can’t have them anymore.”
In typical bureaucratic fashion, DeBary Council member Nick Koval defended his decision to end the program, saying chickens don’t belong in residential communities. “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.”
A few things comes to mind in response to Mr. Koval’s comments:
- We agree, to a point; chicken farms that raise tens of thousands of birds at a time definitely need to be located in areas zoned for agricultural use. But home coops with a few chickens raised for personal use is another story entirely.
- The US has a long history of homeowners raising chickens in their backyard coops, whether for the fresh eggs they produce, the traditional Sunday Dinner, to let children raise and show them as a 4-H project, or simply as family pets (not our first choice, but, as the saying goes, to each his own.)
- As it turns out, DeBary received only two applications for the backyard coops, according to the city, one of them from the Harts.
So we ask you, Mr. Koval, where’s the harm? It’s not as if the whole town was about to be overrun by poultry, so why did you and your council cohorts feel the need to cancel the program? Who would it have hurt if you had just let well-enough alone? We know who it will hurt when the Hart’s have to remove the birds. Three year old J.J., that’s who.
For more information, read the Orlando Sentinel article: DeBary says autistic boy cannot keep pet chickens.