St. Augustine Beach family fights to keep boy’s emotional support chickens

Emotional support chickens

ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. — While most children are begging their parents for a new puppy or kitten, 9-year-old Cole in St. Augustine Beach asked his mother for chickens.

Each day before and after school, Cole feeds his eight chickens in the family’s backyard. Over the past year, he has nurtured and raised them with his mother, even giving them names based on their looks.

“I have a special brain, dyslexia, and they help calm me down,” Cole said.

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At 3 months old, Cole was abused and suffered from shaken baby syndrome. He was quickly adopted by Jennifer Wildasin, who has helped him overcome serious obstacles in his recovery.

Now that he’s older, Cole was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD, and severe dyslexia. Wildasin said she had trouble finding the right resources in St. Johns County.

“There’s not a lot of support here, resources for any parents for a child with dyslexia in St. Augustine or surrounding areas.”

During the week, she drives Cole back and forth to a specialized school in Jacksonville, adding up to about five hours each day. When he’s home, she said the chickens serve as his emotional support animals.

“It has been such an impact on him in a such a great way, in what it makes him feel, and just the responsibility for a 9-year-old that he wants to do, that’s a positive thing,” Wildasin said.

Now it’s in jeopardy.

Wildasin’s neighbor reported the chickens to the city. Action News Jax could not reach her Monday for further comment.

However, in another city meeting, she said her St. Augustine Beach neighborhood is too small for these animals and it is prohibited under the Fair Housing Act.

Initially, Wildasin and her son’s request was approved by the city, which means only they can have these chickens while living there. However, the decision was appealed by the same opposing neighbor.

Monday evening, city leaders will meet again to decide if Cole can keep his emotional support animals.

MONDAY’S MEETING UPDATE 2/3/2020 8:30 PM - Wildasin said that the meeting went in her son’s favor for now. They will be able to keep the chickens while the city takes 120 days to look into the law and rewrite it for situations like her son’s. Wildasin said many people -- strangers even -- got up to speak in favor of her son keeping the chickens.

“I cried at some of the people’s speeches. Just beautiful!” Wildasin said.