Iowa man wants coyote back as emotional support animal

Matt Stokes via AP

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa man is trying regain custody of a young coyote that he says has become his emotional support animal.

“This animal is a dog in a coyote’s body,” said Matthew Stokes about Drifter, a youngster who Stokes said was left by a coyote family that had dug a den this past spring in his backyard on the outskirts of Waterloo.

Drifter was an orphaned pup “looking for a pack. I became his pack,” Stokes said.

Stokes told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier that he was suffering at the time from a bone infection in a foot and was in danger of losing it. He said Drifter kept him going.

“I had to take care of myself. There was nobody else there to care for him. He saved my life. And I saved his life too,” Stokes said.

But the pup was corralled by a neighbor while roaming the area in October and placed with a wildlife rehab agency.

“This is not an emotional support animal. This is a wild coyote that he took out of the wild and decided to make a pet,” said Tracy Belle, director of WildThunder Wildlife and Animal Rehabilitation and Sanctuary.

Drifter is young and seems docile, Belle said, but his adult behavior and predatory instincts have yet to kick in.

“This is not a domestic coyote, this is a wild animal,” Belle said. WildThunder’s goal is to return the coyote to the wild.

Stokes said he’s obtained a letter from his physician that says Drifter is an emotional support animal because he helps Stokes with depression and anxiety.

Stokes also is in the process of applying for a U.S. Department of Agriculture license to keep a dangerous animal, he said, and he’s also studying a provision of Iowa law that would let him keep Drifter as an educational animal.