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Therapy ducks for Georgetown Township boy with autism may have to go

The ducks violate a township zoning ordinance, and the family is fighting to keep them.

GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A 12-year-old boy with autism may lose his emotional support ducks that are in violation of a township zoning ordinance.

Dylan Dyke got his ducks, Nibbles and Bill, two years ago. Dylan’s parents said the animals help him maintain "his normal."

“They've taught him to be responsible,” said Mark Dyke, Dylan’s father. “They've taught him to connect emotionally to someone to something. And it's helped him really develop."

The ducks meet the criteria for emotional support animals, said Dr. Eric Dykstra, Dylan's psychologist and clinical director at Developmental Enhancement, PLC's Jenison clinic. Dylan gets up every morning at 7 a.m. to feed the ducks.

“They’re special to me because I trust them a lot and they trust me a lot,” Dylan said.

The family may have to remove the ducks from their home on Van Buren Street near 22nd Avenue. Georgetown Township officials said the ducks violate a zoning ordinance that prohibits families from having farm animals in that residential area.

Several neighbors complained about the conditions and smell of the yard, where the ducks are kept in a fenced-in pen, according to township officials. The attorney for the homeowners association at Cory Estates, where the Dykes live, said the association couldn't facilitate a solution between the family and neighbors.

To keep the ducks, the Dykes submitted an appeal to the township for a variance to the ordinance. The zoning appeals board will review the matter at its meeting on August 22 at 7:30 p.m. in the Georgetown Township Hall.

“It wouldn't be the same [losing Nibbles and Bill],” Dylan said. “It would be very hard to continue doing everything without the ducks.”

Some neighbors told 13 On Your Side they don’t want Dylan to lose the ducks, but want the situation resolved in a way that addresses their concerns. The Dykes say they want to work with the community as well.

“My hope is that the township will recognize that this is a unique situation with a special needs child,” Mark said. “There are laws that protect kids like Dylan. There are also zoning laws there for a reason, and we recognize that. We want to get along with our neighbors and hope for peaceful resolution with anyone that may have an issue."

The Corey Estates Association board of directors released this statement:

"The Board of Directors for the Cory Estates Association is aware of the request to house outdoor fowl in a close neighborhood setting. We understand that this would require a variance from all applicable Georgetown Township ordinances as well as a waiver of applicable provisions of the Cory Estates Association Restrictive Covenants. While weighing the interests of all neighbors in our neighborhood, we have attempted to facilitate a manageable resolution, and remain committed to an outcome that balances clear and stable expectations for all neighbors, the consideration of specific family requests, the mitigation of negative impacts on others, and a predictable path for any similar future requests. We look forward to engaging all neighbors in this process.”

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