Wichita A man whose runaway wallaby promoted the City Council to consider banning the marsupials says if local government can outlaw one pet just because it's different, there's nothing stopping city leaders from banning others.
Joe Freed, whose 10-month-old wallaby, Skippy, ran away in August and was found 20 hours later a half-block from home, is passing around a petition to rally opposition to the city's pending action.
Skippy's escape prompted news stories and a brief, intense search. After the city saw media reports about the wallaby, officials cited health and safety issues and moved to ban the animals.
Now Freed, who owns a company called Petiatric that makes incubators and brooders used by exotic-bird owners, is seeking support for his stand against the proposed ban.
"It's not about the wallaby so much as it is about Big Brother stepping in and saying you can't have this just because," he said. "I think that's what everyone's standing up for."
Besides, he figures if he doesn't fight, there's no way he'll be able to keep Skippy.
"There are two ways to climb an oak tree," Freed said. "You can climb it or sit on an acorn."
City law allows people to own "small rodents such as gerbils, rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, chinchillas, mink, nutria and similar fur-bearing mammals." Under the proposed ban, "similar fur-bearing mammals" would be removed.
Kay Johnson, director of the city's environmental services department, said she doesn't think the proposed change would affect any animals other than the wallaby.
"These are wild animals, and they need to be in zoos or out in the wild," she wrote in an e-mail. "We shouldn't pen them up and keep them as play things in our urban society."
Tammar wallabies, which are native to Australia, are typically less than 18 inches tall and weigh 15 to 20 pounds, about the size of a small dog. They cost between $1,000 and $5,000 each.
James Carpenter, a professor of zoological medicine who specializes in exotic animals at Kansas State University's Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, said people can successfully raise wallabies. He said they are no more susceptible to transmissible diseases than cats or dogs.
The problem, he said, is that many people don't realize until after buying a wallaby that it's too much for them to handle. They are high-strung and not well suited for an urban environment, he said.
"A lot of them can get kind of nutty," he said.