Therapy Farm Animals in the City? Wilmington Council Considers Allowing Them

Could farm animals be in Wilmington soon? One Delaware lawmaker thinks it is a good idea. NBC10's Tim Furlong explains the plan.

(Published Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017)

A Wilmington city council member has proposed an ordinance that would allow farm animals, such as goats, donkeys, and chickens, to act as service animals for those community members in need.

Councilman Nnamdi Chukwuocha introduced the idea earlier this year to expand the types of animals allowed to be used as therapy companions for people with depression, anxiety, or other needs.

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There are popular programs in hospitals and assisted living centers that bring dogs and cats in to visit with patients and residents.

The Lorelton Assisted Living Center in Wilmington invites dogs into their facility as part of their Paws for People program. Residents light up when spend time with their furry friends.

"She makes me feel on top of the world when she comes," said resident Dee Jubb, when talking about her puppy pal. "She gives me so much. She really does."

But goats, donkeys and chickens running wild in the city? Not everyone is sold on the idea.

Karen Ferrucci teaches agricultural science at William Penn High School. The New Castle school features a working farm that has been beneficial to students.

Still, Ferrucci is concerned about how the program would be implemented and the well-being of the animals in the crammed, urban environment.

“I don’t want necessarily to say it’s a bad idea because if it helps people, that’s great. I think there needs to be a close monitoring, maybe some sort of registration," she said.

There are limited studies that show caring for farm animals can help people with mental health disorders have better treatment outcomes.

A spokesperson for the Wilmington city councilman said nobody came to him and asked for farm animals to be allowed in the city.

Chukwuocha now recognizes that here are multiple unanswered questions about the animals and their health and has decided to temporarily put the bill on hold.

He hopes to revisit the issue in the future.