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Lebanon County family can keep ducks for son with autism, zoning hearing board concludes

RICHLAND, Pa. - A Lebanon County family will be allowed to keep ducks in their home for their son with autism, a board ruled Wednesday.

The Richland borough zoning hearing board voted 2-1 Wednesday to allow the Ortiz family to keep the eight ducks they have on their property.

The family says the ducks are therapeutic for their son Coby, 11, who has autism. The ducks have been at the home for the last nine months. Several community members have spoken out in favor of letting the ducks stay since the borough issued a notice of violation to the Ortiz family in October.

A majority of the board found the ducks should be classified as pets instead of being used for agricultural purposes. The distinction is critical. Had the ducks been designated as being used for agriculture, it would not be a permitted use under the zoning of the Ortiz household.

The Ortiz home is zoned in the borough's central business district, and is situated between two restaurants.

The board listened to more than two hours of testimony from various parties involved in the duck dispute, including the Ortiz family, borough officials and agricultural experts. The board then went into executive session to deliberate for more than a half-hour and announced its findings.

The zoning hearing board has 45 days to issue notice of its ruling, and then the borough has 30 days upon issuance to appeal to the Court of Common Pleas in Lebanon County.

There is no indication as to whether the borough intends to push the matter any further.