12-year-old boy can keep his eight pet ducks at home, Court of Common Pleas affirms

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LEBANON COUNTY — The Court of Common Pleas of Lebanon County affirmed the decision by the Zoning Hearing Board of Richland Borough that allows 12-year-old Coby Ortiz to keep his eight pet ducks at home.

In October 2017, the Ortiz family was found to be in violation of an ordinance that prohibits agricultural operations at homes which officials say includes keeping ducks on their property.

That December, the zoning hearing board voted 2-1 in favor of allowing Ortiz to keep the ducks. Richland Borough appealed that decision which was settled last week in the Court of Common Pleas.

The court has imposed five conditions for property owner John Sokol in relation to the ducks:

  • Sokol may possess ducks on his property provided they are maintained indoors or in a yard area that is confined by a fence that is tall enough to prevent the ducks from escaping.
  • Sokol shall not be required to relinquish possession of any ducks currently located on his property. However, as the ducks die or are permitted to leave, they shall not be replaced if replacement expands the flock of ducks at Sokol’s residence to any number exceeding five.
  • The ducks shall be permitted at Sokol’s residence so long as a human resident has a medically diagnosable condition for which comfort animals are deemed to be of therapeutic value. Sokol shall be required on a yearly basis to provide a certification from a licensed medical physicion that concludes that a human being location on Sokol’s property is receiving tangible medical benefit from the presence of the ducks.
  • If the human being inside Sokol’s home who receives therapeutic benefit from the ducks relocates away from the residence, the ducks shall be removed within 30 days following the date of relocation.
  • Each duck maintained at Sokol’s residence is to be marked or tagged in such a way that the duck could be identified if it escapes and causes harm within Richland Borough. If one of Sokol’s ducks does escape and cause harm, leave is granted for the borough to seek an order that modifies or terminates the right of Sokol to maintain continuing possession of ducks on his property.
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