Boy with autism speaks out after Lebanon County judge rules he can keep his therapy ducks at home

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RICHLAND, LEBANON COUNTY, Pa. --  A boy with autism in Lebanon County has won a crucial court victory and for now may keep his therapy ducks at home.

Coby Ortiz is that 12-year-old boy, and he bravely interviewed with FOX43 for the first time since Grace Griffaton began covering his story.

That Judge called the borough cruel in his ruling.

As Coby told us today, the ducks, very simply, bring him happiness.

“Basically, when I got my first ducks, Chester, Lucy and Ethel… [I felt] very happy for once and not stressed out," said Coby Ortiz.

Coby Ortiz has grown since the last time we saw him and his flock of ducks has grown too... from 8 to 10.

He lives with autism, and these ducks are more than therapeutic.

“They’re a part of the family," said Coby.

A Lebanon County judge gave Coby an early 13th birthday present - the ducks can stay at Coby's home in Richland so long as each is tagged, the family provides proof from a doctor that Coby benefits from having the ducks, and there is a fence to keep them from escaping.

More on that ruling:

"I think it’s a win. We can produce the doctors note at anytime, the fence is already here, they already have leg tags cause they’re shown. We don’t have to change anything we’re doing," said Tania Ortiz, Coby's mom.

Tania Ortiz has supported her son since this all started.

FOX43 began covering this story when borough officials first tried to separate Coby and the ducks in 2017.

That's when the family received notice they were violating an ordinance.

The borough didn't see Coby's duck as pets but as an agricultural operation - which isn't allowed in Richland.

Richland's Zoning Board soon intervened, saying the animals didn't pose a threat and voting to allow Coby to keep them.

However, the borough appealed and took the Ortiz family to court.

Throughout his journey, Coby has received a ton of support, from neighbors near and far, including the owner of Argentos Pizza.

Joseph Argento says Coby's plight became his own.

"Coby has become a friend, kind of like a little brother to me. I worry about him. I care for him as if he was my own little brother," said Joseph Argento.

Joseph Argento worries the fight for Coby might not be over.

“What is the next obstacle... because there is still the ability to appeal," he explained.

That is also a concern shared by family.

“I just want it to be over," said Tania Ortiz. "They’ve appealed their own zoning board, men that they appointed to do the job, and they appealed their ruling, so why wouldn’t they appeal this?"

For now, it might be Coby's greatest lesson.

“It has taught Coby, no matter what, if you’re standing up for what’s right, even if you’re standing alone, do it," said Tania.

The borough can still appeal to the State's Commonwealth Court.

FOX43 did reach out to Richland Borough for comment, but we were unable to get a hold of anyone.

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