Man fighting to get his emotional support coyote back after it's taken by animal control

An Iowa man is fighting to regain his pet coyote from a wildlife sanctuary, claiming the animal helps him cope with depression and anxiety.

Waterloo resident Matt Stokes bonded with the coyote, named Drifter, after the animal was left behind by his family in an old shed on Stokes' property, according to KCRG. But after the coyote was seen wandering around the area, a neighbor called animal control and the so-called pet was taken away in October.

It's illegal to have a coyote as a pet in Iowa, but Stokes hired an attorney in an effort to get Drifter back from Wildthunder Wildlife & Animal Rehabilitation Sanctuary, where the coyote was transferred.

Stokes maintains the animal has "never been wild, he's always been tame." He previously told his neighbors that Drifter was a German shepherd.

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“We would lay on the couch on Saturday afternoons and take a nap together. He's my buddy," he reportedly said.

A doctor's note also claims Drifter is an emotional support animal who helps Stokes with his depression and anxiety, the Iowa outlet reported on Monday.

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But Tracy Belle, the sanctuary's director, said Drifter is "not an emotional support animal. This is a wild coyote that he took out of the wild and decided to make a pet.”

Belle said the goal was to release Drifter back into the wild -- something Stokes indicated was dangerous.

Drifter was just a pup when his mother abandoned him, according to Stokes. “He'll never make it in the wild. He won't make it a day.”

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Stokes also attributes his own health to the animal, claiming Drifter forced him to take care of himself.

"If it wasn't for him, I would probably be missing my toe, foot or leg, cause I got an infection of the bone,” he said. “I had to make sure I could take care of myself so I could take care of him."