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DeBary officials will let autistic child keep his pet chickens

J.J. Hart will be allowed to keep his pet chickens, according to DeBary County leaders. 12-18-13
J.J. Hart will be allowed to keep his pet chickens, according to DeBary County leaders.
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Updated: 12/19/2013 10:46 am
DEBARY, Fla. -- The battle over a little boy's backyard chickens is over.

WFTV Channel 9 has been following J.J. Hart's story since some of his chickens were killed in 2012.

In a packed meeting in DeBary Wednesday night, the city voted to allow J.J. Hart to keep his pets.

After a two-hour meeting, DeBary leaders voted to allow Ashleigh Hart's autistic son to keep his pet chickens.

For the family it was the end of a yearlong battle. She was surrounded by dozens of residents who spoke up at the meeting to help her in her fight.

"I am standing here in front of you fighting for this child," on resident said.

"J.J. could be my child or your grandchild. Do the right thing," said another resident.

"We've met amazing people and you realize how strong your community is," Ashleigh Hart said following the meeting.

J.J. Hart has had his pet chickens for about two years.

His mother said the chickens have been therapeutic and helped treat her son's autism.

She said he has gone from banging his head and pulling out his hair to learning to be gentle with the animals.

"It gives him a schedule, it teaches him socialization skills. He's talking so much better. While I can't attribute all of that to the chickens, I can say it's made a tremendous difference and it has helped him bring him out of his shell," said Ashleigh Hart.

City officials had told Ashleigh Hart she had to get rid of her son's chickens after a pilot program for the chickens failed.

The fight to appeal the city's decision has been long, but Ashleigh Hart said it's been worth it, especially after getting emails from around the world to help other families do the same thing.

"We actually helped a family in Iowa win for their autistic daughter. (It was) the same thing, she needed chickens," Ashleigh Hart said.

Ashleigh Hart said even if the city had said no to the chickens she would have come back fighting even harder to change that decision.

Video: WFTV Orlando
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