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Parents say kids miss therapy with porcupine at Scatter Joy Acres after animal seizure

Posted at 6:26 PM, Sep 09, 2020

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Protestors gathered outside of Nebraska Humane Society Wednesday afternoon to protest the seizure of nine animals from Scatter Joy Acres.

On August 24, NHS seized a Porcupine, a Coatimundi, and seven Patagonian Cavies because NHS said they are violating city ordinances by keeping non-domestic animals.

“We are a non-profit petting zoo,” Tim Heller, Board of Directors, Scatter Joy Acres said. “We’ve got all of the permits from the USDA, Nebraska Games and Parks to allow us to have these animals.”

Parents who were protesting said their kids miss the animals, especially a porcupine many have bonded with.

Connor Henning, 4, loves sensory play. He has Cerebral Palsy from a hypoxic brain injury.

“Connor is non-verbal,” his mother Jennifer Henning said. “He doesn’t eat like everyone else, he is tube fed, he is cognitively and intellectually disabled, so Connor doesn’t make bonds or attachments.”

But he did bond with an animal he met at therapy at Scatter Joy Acres.

“Aquilla, this little porcupine, is the most gentile little thing,” Henning said. “She walks up to him, sniffs his hand, and takes it extremely slow and eventually after 20-30 minutes she sits in his lap.”

Kim Britain also describes the porcupine as gentile. Her 11-year-old son Noah spends time with Aquilla during animal therapy.

“Very domesticated,” Britain said. “No, I wouldn’t go out in the wild and pet a porcupine but her we felt very safe with.”

Steve Glandt, Vice President of Field Operations at NHS, said porcupines have razor-sharp quills that can hurt people.

“It may have been gentile and unassuming until this point but again it’s a wild animal and with a wild animal comes some unpredictability,” Glandt said.

Glandt said NHS also has an obligation to the animals to make sure they are well taken care of.

“We can appreciate the therapeutic value that animals provide for kids and adults,” Glandt said. “But we just feel that lets use a domestic animal, there are plenty of options for therapeutic purposes.”

Both Britain and Henning said they feel safe sending their sons to animal therapy with a porcupine.

“We have a dog at home,” Britain said. “He was looking for something a little more different because he is different. I think he feels a connection with those animals there. Because when he feels different, being with some other animal that is different really makes him feel important. It’s not every day you can sit with a porcupine.”

“Those porcupine quills, he likes to open up his hands and feel them,” Henning said. “They don’t hurt him. He loves the feeling of them. It’s a neat thing to see a little boy that doesn’t have attachments of anything have a bond with something.”

They hope Scatter Joy Acres gets Aquilla back so their sons can see her again soon.