Sunday, November 13, 2016

Town Nixes Horse, But OKs Family Of Five Geese; Disabled Homeowner's Zoning Variance Request To Keep Unconventional Emotional Support Animals Gets Green Light

In Beloit, Wisconsin, the Beloit Daily News reports:
  • Bob Sparks will get to enjoy his gaggle of therapy geese for years to come, thanks to a Town of Beloit variance granted [] by the Board of Adjustments.

    The geese have brought Sparks back from a nearly fatal accident ten years ago.

    On Nov. 1, 2006, Sparks stopped on the side of the road to help a stranger who had run out of gas push his car to a nearby gas station. Suddenly, a car struck Spark's car, pinning him between his own car and that of the person he was trying to push.

    Sparks suffered three brain bleeds that damaged his memory, broke both legs and caused muscle rips and skin loss on almost his entire right leg.

    He was in a coma for several days, and doctors told his wife, Sylvia Davis, they had never seen someone who experienced that level of trauma survive their injuries. Sparks did survive, but the resulting trauma to his brain and legs was so significant that he had to re-learn how to brush his teeth, read and write among other remedial tasks.

    However, what brought Sparks back to a degree of purpose in his life were animals. They brought back memories that had not been lost by the accident of growing up on a farm.

    Caring for a horse Davis acquired for him gave Sparks a reason to first drag himself out of bed and wheel his wheelchair across the lawn every day. Doctors had expressed concern when Sparks was released that if he did not remain active, he would permanently lose use of his legs. Not only did this new inspiration help him keep using his legs, but before long Sparks was walking without assistance.

    Sparks took care of the horse for over a year before a Town of Beloit enforcement officer visited and told the couple that the horse violated zoning laws and would have to be removed from their property. Davis and Sparks attempted to board the horse for a while, but ultimately had to sell him.

    With Sparks lacking a reason to get up each day once again, Davis found a friend looking to sell a goose. Davis bought the goose, named Lucy, and after finding out later that she needed a mate or she would die of loneliness, acquired a male named Ricky. The pair of African Swan Geese provided company for not just each other, but for Sparks as well. Davis saw her husband find purpose and fulfillment once again, and the pair of geese became a family as Lucy hatched three babies named Fred, Ethel and Mrs. Trumble, rounding out a family of "I Love Lucy" characters.
    Linda Hart, a friend of Sparks and Davis' who identified herself as a fellow disabled individual, spoke of the impact she had seen on Sparks to have purpose through these geese.

    "I am excited to see him walk and not be in a wheel chair, and it is because of these geese," said Hart. "Without them, he would not even bother to try," said Tamra Schlueter, another friend of Sparks and Davis.

    The Board of Adjustments voted unanimously to allow Sparks to keep his geese, with several conditions. Sparks must keep the goose family to five and not seek to replace geese as they should perish. No geese can be slaughtered outdoors on their property, and the geese must be provided an enclosure that remains in their backyard, no closer than 25 feet from any adjacent residential structure.

    For Sparks, it was just good enough to be able to look forward to tomorrow.

    "I am elated," Sparks said after the meeting. "Now I get to look forward to tomorrow and the next day of taking care of my geese."

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