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11 year old with autism fights to keep pet ducks at home in Richland Borough

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RICHLAND BOROUGH, LEBANON COUNTY, Pa. -- One 11-year-old boy and his family are fighting to keep their pet ducks at home, where they say they belong.

To them, the ducks are more than just animals - they're family.

"I see them every day digging in the ground for bugs..." said Coby Ortiz of Richland, Lebanon County.

Ortiz is an 11-year old with autism. He says his 8 pet ducks make everything easier.

"Sometimes, I just go out here to watch the ducks," he explained.

To the Ortiz's, the ducks are family. To Coby? It's a form of therapy.

"They're very comforting to him. He can show a lot of compassion, and he gets it back, and we don't want to get rid of them. We don't think it's fair," said Tania Ortiz, Coby's mom.

Tania says she received a notice from the borough. The Ortiz's were found to be in violation of an ordinance that prohibits agricultural operations at homes which officials say includes keeping ducks on their property.

"I don't know how someone can have a conscious and sleep at night knowing they're going to take therapeutic ducks away from a special needs child," said Tania.

The family must give up the ducks or face a five hundred dollar fine from the borough each day the ducks remain on the property.

"Coby has been my friend for a long time, and I can see the attachment to these ducks everyday since he brought them home," said Liam Allen, Coby's good friend.

Allen organized a protest for Coby and his family. Neighbors put up signs in support of the Ortiz's.

"The bond between a dog and you is the same bond as the ducks and him...except the ducks being removed are ten times more hurting," added Allen.

Fox 43 reached out to officials with Richland Borough, but they weren't available for comment.

"Coby absolutely needs these ducks. These ducks were a life saver," said Tania Ortiz.

The protest is set for Saturday at noon by the Christmas tree on Main Street in Richland. Tania Ortiz says she's also requested a zoning hearing with the borough to see if they can keep the ducks.