Family fights town hall to let autistic son keep comfort ducks

Lebanon

It’s battle with the borough that cost thousands of dollars and years of stress, but Coby Ortiz’s parents are not giving up.

“Coby was diagnosed with autism at the age of four,” his mom Tania Ortiz said. “It’s been a long journey. He would punch himself in the head when he couldn’t say how he felt.”

Tania Ortiz says she tried many kinds of treatments, therapies, and even typical pets for Coby, but it wasn’t until he was drawn to ducks that his life changed.

“It was a big eye opener that an animal could do so much,” Tania Ortiz said.

Coby says the ducks comfort him, and his parents saw an immediate improvement. He started talking with kids his own age and was able to get off anxiety medication. 

“They’ll come in the house and sit on his lap or he’ll come out here,” Tania Ortiz said. “He feeds them and waters them every day. He changes the hay. He takes care of them.”

But Richland borough wants Coby to get rid of his 10 ducks, calling it an agricultural operation and bringing the fight to court. 

This month, Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas Judge Bradford Charles called that “gratuitously cruel” and ruled Coby should be able to keep his ducks.

Conditions are they have to remain tagged and can’t leave the Ortiz’s fenced-in area. 

“We put hay out in the winter because it’ll get icy and snowy,” said Tania Ortiz. 

The borough did not respond to our requests for an interview, so we went to its offices, which were closed Wednesday.

“They’re pets,” said Tania Ortiz. “They all have names.”

As you can see by the signs around town saying “Let Coby Keep his Ducks,” the court of public opinion ruled in favor of Coby.

“They mean everything to us because of what they’ve done for Coby,” said Tania Ortiz.

The Ortiz family says the borough has until next month to appeal the decision. 

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