A depressed animal lover hit out at officials for seizing his emotional support coyote – and has demanded the animal back.

Matthew Stokes says the wild dog, which he began caring for as a puppy during the spring, helped him battle through mental health issues and a bone infection which almost cost him his foot.

The coyote, named Drifter, was picked up by wildlife officials after being spotted roaming outside in October, and is now being cared for by a wildlife rehab center.

Stokes, from Waterloo in Iowa, insisted: ‘This animal is a dog in a coyote’s body..

‘He was an orphaned pup looking for a pack. I became his pack.

‘I had to take care of myself. There was nobody else to care for him.

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‘He saved my life. And I saved his too.’

Stokes lied and told neighbors Drifter was a German shepherd. Coyotes have been known to snatch and eat small pet dogs and cats, and even size-up children.

People living in areas bordering on coyote habitats have been ordered to keep pets and children indoors for their own safety.

And Tracy Belle, from the WildThunder Wildlife and Animal Rehabilitation Center, where Drifter currently resides, rubbished Stokes’ claims that the wild dog is an ESA.

She said: ‘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.’

Belle said that Drifter is still a puppy, and that he will begin to exhibit potentially dangerous predatory instincts as he grows older.

She said officials plan to ignore a letter Stokes got from his physician certifying Drifter as an emotional support animal, The Courier reported.

The bereft coyote lover now intends to appeal to Iowa State Governor for help, and says that if she can pardon Thanksgiving turkeys, she should be able to help him out.

Belle says that she and her fellow rehab workers hope to return Drifter to the wild, but that he will be adopted by a wildlife educational center if he cannot cope on his own.