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Georgetown Township, Mich. – Parents of a 12-year-old boy with autism are fighting against a western Michigan township’s order to get rid of their son’s ducks, which are used as emotional support animals.

Georgetown Township zoning officials issued a nuisance order to Mark and Jen Dyke after receiving multiple complaints from neighbors over their son’s ducks straying from their property, WOOD-TV reported. The complaints cited concerns of the ducks’ unpleasant smell and their impact on property values in the area.

Township officials said they’re enforcing an ordinance that prohibits homeowners from having farm animals on their property.

The Dykes are requesting an ordinance variance for their son, Dylan. They hope the township’s zoning appeals board will rule in their favor next month.

“We live here,” said Mark Dyke. “We want to get along with everybody as much as we can but at the same time we need to advocate for our special needs son.”

Dylan’s psychologist, Eric Dykstra, believes taking the ducks away from the boy would cause “significant emotional distress.”

“They provide the opportunity for him to calm down. They provide the opportunity for him to practice emotional regulation,” Dykstra said. “For Dylan these ducks are extremely helpful.”

Jen Dyke said the ducks mean everything to her son. He feeds the ducks daily at 7 a.m. and immediately checks on them after school, she said.

“They’re his whole life,” she said.

Dylan, one of five children, said he can tell his ducks “anything and they just won’t be bothered by it.”

“These ducks understand me so much,” he said. “My siblings do as well, but these ducks just trust me more.”

The township’s zoning appeals board will consider the family’s request Aug. 22. The Dyke family said they may pursue the issue in court if the board doesn’t rule in their favor.

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