At some point in our lives, we have all seen a service animal. While typically these animals are dogs, the service animal field is non-descriminate and accepting applications from other species. This has led to miniature horses, cats, monkeys, and even chickens stepping up to fill the need for emotional comfort animals, animals that people with disabilities have every right to have.
Take, for instance, the case of a 3-year-old autistic boy named J.J. Hart. The City Council in DeBary, FL, the town in which he resides, voted to end a year-long Backyard Chicken Pilot Program recently, which placed in jeopardy the chickens J.J. loves so much. His family argued that the chickens help with his autism in that they bring him out of his shell, but they were given the choice of getting rid of their chickens or moving out of DeBary into an area that would allow them to continue their current lifestyle.
Instead of giving up and giving in, however, they decided to fight. Armed with attorney Mark Nation, they hit the DeBary City Council where it hurt, and hit them good...with the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act. The Fair Housing Act allows you make reasonable modifications to your dwelling or common use areas, at your expense, if necessary for the disabled occupant to use the housing as well as allowing for reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, State and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. The Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by Federal agencies, in programs receiving Federal financial assistance, in Federal employment, and in the employment practices of Federal contractors.
All of this sounds a lot like this little boy is entitled to keep his chickens, and so he was. It is just a shame that it took the threat of a federal lawsuit to allow this boy to keep the animals that proved therapeutic to him.
Another similar case was when the city of Fairfield, Ohio tried to take five chickens away from 78-year-old cancer survivor Joyce Branham. Her chronic anxiety was quelled by the therapeutic effects of her chickens and so she contacted the Ohio Civil Rights Commission to aid her in keeping them. Her claims that the city of Fairfield discriminated against her on the basis of a handicap were heard loud and clear and she was allowed to keep her chickens despite neighbors who complained that the chickens devalued their properties.
When you count your blessings, don\'t forget to count your chickens. Likewise, when others have these animals for their own comfort, be understanding and tolerant. We may not know what came first, be it the chicken or the egg, but civility towards our fellow chicken-loving human beings should always come first.