City taking therapy pets away from child with anxiety

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LAWRENCE, Mass. (MyFoxBoston.com) – Jaxon Torres struggles with generalized anxiety, ADHD and has learning and speech developmental problems, but has found that his pets help ease the symptoms. However, after a neighbors complaint and City Council meeting, he will have to give up more than half of his animal friends.

Torres' mom and his therapist say that the animals, seven dogs, three cats and a bird, help Torres self-soothe, especially when it's time to go to sleep.

"He actually takes an animal each night to bed with him so he passes each animal off each night. That's what helps him sleep without his medication," Torres' mother Denise Diaz said.

And that's not the only benefit. Diaz says the animals are helping her son come "out of his shell" and they also keep him "more calm, more focused, he's able to interact with his peers," she said.

However, neighbors have filed complaints about the pets, saying they are a pain and violate city law as you are only supposed to have four pets. The police chief warned Diaz last week, saying that the animal control officer would take some of the pets away if they weren't gone by Friday. The City Council considered issuing a special permit Wednesday to allow Torres to keep his pets, but they have decided that wouldn't be fair to the rest of the community, despite a letter from Torres' therapist that says losing the pets will disrupt Torres' life.

"It is my belief that the loss of his animals would cause significant disruption not only to his ability to self soothe and fall asleep, but to his feelings of security in general," the letter read.

Diaz was not happy with the decision, but will still comply with the ruling. Seven of the animals will be leaving the home, most are going to Diaz's co-workers and some will be placed in shelters.

"My son was discriminated against because of the fact that they did not want to hear the facts and evidence on hand," she said.