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Archive for Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Skippy’s escape leads Wichita to consider ban on wallabies

September 18, 2007

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— Wichita city officials may ban wallabies, a miniature kangaroo-like marsupial, from city limits after one of them briefly escaped from its owner.

The development is the latest in the adventures of Skippy, a 10-month-old wallaby who bolted last month from owner Joe Freed's home. His escape prompted news stories and a brief, intense search. He was found 20 hours later a half-block away, where he was trying to get some bread people were tossing to ducks.

Since then, Freed spent $1,000 in attorney's fees but succeeded in beating a city ticket for having an exotic animal.

Wichita's animal ordinance does not address marsupials, but it does say residents are allowed to have "small rodents such as gerbils, rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, chinchillas, mink, nutria and similar fur-bearing mammals."

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.

A municipal judge ruled the wallaby was technically exotic and therefore illegal, according to a city memo. But because the ordinance is too vague, the judge said Skippy could remain with Freed.

During a workshop on Thursday, the City Council plans to discuss a proposed ordinance specifically banning wallabies. The city contends wallabies carry diseases and do not make good urban pets.

Freed disputes that assertion.

Kay Johnson, the city's director of environmental services, acknowledged the animals are cute when they're babies. "But cute doesn't necessarily mean it's right for the city," she added.

She said the city did not know anybody in town had a wallaby until Freed's escaped.

Freed said he knows of eight other people who own wallabies and contends the animals should not be a problem for the city.

"It's not like we're going to be ... overpopulated with them," he said.

"A lot of things are exotic to Kansas people," he said. "I can't have a wallaby - but I can have a teenage son?"

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