Man wins right to keep emotional support emu

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — You’ve heard of emotional support dogs, cats and other animals, but a Virginia man has won the battle to keep an emotional support emu.

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Nick Olenik said he became depressed after losing his brother, his father and going into isolation because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A friend had told him about how emus can provide emotional support, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

Olenik bought an emu egg and it hatched in December. He named the emu Nimbus and he raised her for months as it roamed through their house. Nimbus fit right in with the other animals Olenik and his family own — dogs, cats, ducks, hens and a turkey, WVEC reported.

He credits his mental healing to Nimbus.

“I came back to life because of that emu,” Olenik told the newspaper. “You can’t be sad when you’re with an emu. They’re the cutest damned things ever.”

But a neighbor complained to the Virginia Beach Animal Control which cited Olenik for keeping livestock in an area not designed for it. He was found guilty earlier this year and fined $50. Olenik planned to appeal so he wasn’t ordered to give away his emu.

Last week, a circuit judge ruled that Olenik was not guilty, citing the difference between a “companion animal” and “livestock”, meaning that he could keep an emu as a pet, the Pilot reported.

It’s not all a happy ending however for Olenik and his feathered companion.

Because of how long the case dragged on, he took Nimbus to a friend’s animal rescue in Tennessee. While he could get her back now that the ruling was made in his favor, Nimbus has moved on and now has a boyfriend with whom she’s grown attached, WVEC reported.

Olenik plans on getting another emu, the Pilot reported. He was also inspired by his legal fight to run for office as an independent candidate for a seat in the state House. His campaign slogan — “It all started with an emu.”