Newton County

Family says support goat for son with autism in jeopardy of being taken away by Newton County

NEWTON COUNTY, Ga — It’s an autism assistance animal that’s been life-changing for a Newton County family.

“He saves me from Autism,” said 6-year-old Kayden Walden.

But James and Kimberly Walden told Channel 2′s Ashli Lincoln that their son’s goat is now in jeopardy of being taken away.

“His own pediatrician says it’s the best medicine,” said James Walden.

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Last week the Waldens say they received a notice from Newton County Code Enforcement, telling them the goat and the other animals on the property have to go.

“We have a total of nine chickens and two ducks,” said Walden.

The Waldens say the notice they received cited a livestock violation for the acreage size of their property.

The Waldens also say that while they disagree with the county’s reasoning, they are willing to get rid of the other animals, except for the goat named Leggo. The goat is registered with the U.S. Service Animal Registrar as an Autism Assistance Animal for their son Kayden.


“His progress would severely be disrupted if that were to take place,” said Kimberly Walden.

The Waldens say they got the goat to continue animal therapy that has been beneficial.

“When he was diagnosed, he was completely nonverbal, they said he would never speak. He can have a full conversation now,” said Kimberly Walden.

The U.S. Service Animals Association says local laws cannot override the rights for service animals mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

However, for emotional support animals like the Waldens’ autism assistance pet, there are some rights laid out by the Americans with Disabilities Act that could allow local governments to enforce local laws.

There is a difference between service animals and emotional support animals.

According to the government, service animals have to be trained to perform a specific task. Emotional support animals do not. Because of that, emotional support animals have fewer protections and can be kept out of more businesses and places in Georgia.

“It’s just heartbreaking for us, and it will be heartbreaking for him if that were to take place,” said Kimberly.

Channel 2 Action News reached out to Newton County Code Enforcement for a comment.

They sent us a statement saying:

Newton County Code Enforcement received a complaint regarding 255 Carole Drive, Oxford. Upon inspection, there were livestock animals on the property, which was zoned for single family residential.

We were notified today, Sept. 13, 2022, the animal is a support animal. At the time of the notice, we were not aware that an animal on the property was deemed an emotional support animal.

The resident was served a notice by Newton County Code Enforcement on Sept. 7, 2022. We will give the resident the required 30 days before our officer completes a follow-up inspection and re-evaluate the situation at that time, if needed.

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