Local mother fights to keep her autistic son’s therapy chickens

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By Tanae Howard

Four chickens brought 10-year-old Anthony Frushon the healing he had been searching for.

"It makes me feel really, really good," said Anthony.

Anthony suffers from autism. His condition causes anxiety, OCD, and a sleeping disorder. After insurance no longer paid for therapy, he discovered healing in chickens. He trained them with a bell, even taught them to hug. But his happiness could hit a snag.

"I registered them as emotional support therapy birds for him. I called the town to let them know and that's when I was told that the birds would have to go, that there's an ordinance," said his mother, Sherri Frushon.

We found the town of Brownsburg ordinance online. It clearly states farm animals are not allowed in single family homes if you don't have a half acre of land.

"He's found something and I have to support that and I do support that and I want to make sure his rights are fully covered," Sherri said.

Sherri says the town threatened to fine her if the chickens were not removed in 10 days. That deadline passed and the town did not act. They're giving her the chance to follow the proper procedures to have farm animals and get her neighbors' approval to keep the chickens. However, Sherri says the process is too much under the circumstances.

"I have been his advocate all this time. But I think what they're asking me to do is a little bit too much. Just a little bit too much to go out there and knock on doors."

But now her mission is to change the town ordinance so it's more sensitive to therapy animals and people with disabilities. She even started an online petition that has more than 34,000 signatures from people all over the world.

"Who doesn't just want to be accepted? And that's what my son wants to be. He just wants to be accepted and his birds genuinely make him feel that way. He doesn't have to get their approval. There's no negativity."

Sherri would like to present the Brownsburg zoning committee with a copy of the American Disability Association guidelines to see if they're willing to revamp the ordinance for people who use farm animals for therapy.

On Wednesday, Aug. 6, the Town of Brownsburg released the following statement about the situation:

Regarding Brownsburg resident Sherri Frushon's desire to keep chickens at her South Jefferson Street home it is important to note that contrary to multiple reports, the Town of Brownsburg has not ordered the removal of the animals.

Ms. Frushon is the tenant at the property. She called the Brownsburg Planning Department several weeks ago to ask about the Town's ordinance regarding the keeping of chickens, animals that are typically considered "farm-related." The Brownsburg Planning Department has provided Ms. Frushon with the information regarding the process to request a variance of the zoning ordinance. Town staff has endeavored to be helpful to Ms. Frushon on the phone and through email exchanges and has offered to meet with her.

To date, the Town has not received a formal complaint about the chickens on the property, and as such, it has not taken any action against either the tenant or the property owner. If the property owner decides he wants his tenant to keep the animals, the Town’s Board of Zoning Appeals does have a variance request process and State statutes allow for variance requests to deal with issues like this that are not typical. (Indiana Code 36-7-4-918.5, Board of Zoning Appeals; Variance from Development Standards). The tenant must have the property owner's participation or approval to seek a variance. If together they decide to move forward with the process, the Town's planning staff will assist them, as they would any resident seeking a variance.

To be clear, the Town of Brownsburg has not received a complaint from any surrounding neighbors or a request to inspect the property. The Town of Brownsburg has not taken action against the tenant or the property owner regarding compliance with the ordinance nor has it asked for action from the tenant or property owner at this time.

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