Archive for Sunday, January 4, 2009

Young lobbyist takes case to city

Sixth-grader gets law changed, new pet

After lobbying the city to make hedgehogs legal, 11-year-old Judson King is now the proud owner of his own pet hedgehog, Little Luke.

After lobbying the city to make hedgehogs legal, 11-year-old Judson King is now the proud owner of his own pet hedgehog, Little Luke.

January 4, 2009


Boy lobbies to legalize hedgehogs

A Lawrence boy went to great lengths to make his Christmas wish come true. Enlarge video

On the street

What was your most unique pet?

It’s a chinchilla. I was going to raise a coat.

More responses

Anybody who has been around City Hall for long has seen his type before.

Lobbyist. Attorney. Paid advocate. He’s wearing a suit and tie and carrying a stack full of personalized folders for city commissioners. No one — no one — wears a tie to a City Commission meeting unless they’re paid to.

When it is his turn to speak, he strides confidently to the podium. You know the slick delivery about some multimillion-dollar project or high-stakes city issue is about to commence.

But there was something — a nagging something — that was different about this guy.

Oh, yeah. He could hardly see over the podium. Maybe it was because he’s 11 years old.

And his subject was a bit different, too — hedgehogs.

Prickly perseverance

Judson King, a sixth-grader at Corpus Christi Catholic School, wanted a pet hedgehog, which can best be described as a 6- to 8-inch long porcupine-like creature. But then he finds out the city’s animal code prohibits hedgehogs in the city limits.

“That really kind of made me mad,” King said.

It did not exactly break the heart of his mother, however.

“I thought, this is my out,” said Judson’s mother, Rebecca Weeks, who has been known to call the creature a “hedge rat.” “Now I don’t have to get him one.”

Not so fast.

“Then,” Weeks continued, “he said, ‘How do we make them legal?’”

It was that question that started a three-year crusade to make hedgehogs legal in the city limits. That’s right, it was three Christmases ago that Judson began with his hedgehog hankering. He sent a letter to the city in January 2008 asking commissioners to consider changing the law.

City Hall presentation

But before that, he had spent the better part of two years employing a two-pronged approach to be ready for his day before the commission.

“I pretty much did research every single night, and I also daydreamed about them,” Judson said — hedgehogs, that is, not city commissioners.

His mother seems to recall that he played some video games, too. But that is beside the point. When it came time to seal the deal, Judson King locked it up tighter than a Ziplock.

“I think he ought to run for City Commission in April,” City Commissioner Sue Hack said after his presentation.

Commissioners were impressed with his prepared speech and his personalized folders that included pictures and 14 pages of information about hedgehogs.

Commissioners nor city staff nor a representative of Lawrence Humane Society found any serious reasons why hedgehogs should be banned from the city. There was a brief discussion about fears that the animal — which is native to Africa, parts of Europe and New Zealand — was susceptible to foot-and-mouth disease.

But those fears seem to have subsided over the years. And commissioners noted that state regulators — who are protective of Kansas’ cattle industry — had not found a reason to ban hedgehogs either.


So, it was unanimous. Hedgehogs shall be legal in the city limits. Commissioners gave preliminary approval at their Dec. 2 meeting, though it got overshadowed by the noisier debate that took place that night over whether chickens should be allowed in the city limits. (No, I’m not making this up.)

Final approval was given on Tuesday. But the real day of drama was on Christmas. That’s when Weeks brought down the final Christmas gift — a two-and-a-half-month-old hedgehog named Little Luke.

“She had him in a little carrying case,” Judson recalls. “And he didn’t look very happy about it. He had this look, like, ‘How much am I getting paid for this?’”

The hedgehog — which may not be for everybody, unless you like reclusive, prickly, sometimes temperamental pets — may not have been happy, but Judson was.

He’d scored a political victory and a Christmas coup — all before the age of 12.

“When I was through with all this, I really thought it was a great experience,” Judson said. “I thought if there was anything else that I needed from the city, I could try this again.”

Watch out, City Hall.


The_Voice_of_Reason 9 years, 4 months ago

Can't wait till this kid starts to drive, maybe then he can convince the city to keep up on it's road maintenance... Nice story though...

BigPrune 9 years, 4 months ago

This is wonderful news! Now I won't have to have mine in hiding. I keep mine right next to my chicken and of course I'll always observe the leash laws when I take it, my chicken and my cat for a walk.Only in Lawrence! A list of accomplishments for our illustrious city commissioners please: Companion registration, lawful chickens, lawful hedgehogs. Those matters are not beyond their expertise. At least I don't have to worry about my gerbil.

ronwell_dobbs 9 years, 4 months ago

Bully for the young man. Glad he got his wish after working for it.I have to say that the hedgehog has a striking resemblance to James Trafficant's hairpiece though.

Leslie Swearingen 9 years, 4 months ago

Hedgehogs are delightful little creatures. I know that they also live in England where they burrow beneath the hedgerows that are still used in places to mark the boundary lines of fields. They are so cute and charming, I can't imagine what harm they could do. I admit to wanting one for myself, but it is not practical where I live. I am impressed by his preparation and that he took the time to get all of the facts and anticipated the questions and prepared answers.Kind of reminds you of Obama doesn't it?

sustainabilitysister 9 years, 4 months ago

What worries me is that we a already do a terrible job at taking care of the domesticated animals that have been legal to care for within our city limits. It bothers me that we as humans feel it's alright to take animals out of their natural habitat just to have them as "pets". Is this really moral? Haven't other species suffered enough at the hands of humans. My fear is that this will be just another species to add to the list that suffer due to our lack of responsible pet ownership qualities.

mom_of_three 9 years, 4 months ago

My niece had a hedgehog years ago, when she went to college in Texas. I commend Judson for all the hard work he did. And I don't think this hedgehog will suffer at all.

labmonkey 9 years, 4 months ago

Jesus H. Christ sustainability....just congratulate the kid on his victory.

Chris Ogle 9 years, 4 months ago

Wonder if I can hire this man to lobby for me. I think they actually listened to him. Good job Judson!

SofaKing 9 years, 4 months ago

And this story is also on CNN online today.

renegade 9 years, 4 months ago

Sustainabilitysister.... that a girl ! Way to cheapen a little boys accomplishment of understanding how to work with the leagal system. Lighten up!!!

renegade 9 years, 4 months ago

Sustainability,,, are you one of those old crabby people who never get out of their house and are never happy about anything?

oohmgrover 9 years, 4 months ago to bring Lawrence into the national spotlight - it is on CNN's front page!Very cute story, and I'm very happy for the kid. Most kids who want a pet would just forget about it after a few days or months.

somebodynew 9 years, 4 months ago

@Sofaking - good to see you on here also. I have a different name on CJ, but still owe you lunch at a fish restaurant you recommended to me in Florida.I was going to comment on the CNN thing also, but see that you beat me to it. I must be slow on a Sunday.

Strontius 9 years, 4 months ago

"Is this really moral?"Is it really moral to undermine the legal victory of an 11 year old boy who has learned it is actually possible to work within the system to get what they want? This isn't a discussion about the morality of pet ownership, but a legal discussion.

SofaKing 9 years, 4 months ago

somebodynew...You have the wrong person...nobody owes me a fish lunch, and I never recommended anything in Florida.

nobody1793 9 years, 4 months ago

I think if a kid spends three years focused on getting a hedgehog, he seems like the kind of kid who'd take good care of it. Let's get this kid working on the SLT issue (I don't even care which side as long as it gets settled once and for all.)

Christine Anderson 9 years, 4 months ago

Judson for President!!Seriously, it would not surprise me a bit.

persevering_gal 9 years, 4 months ago

What a wonderful story! Way to go Judson on all of your hard work! Now if you can teach the rest of Lawrence to research and fight for what they believe in rather than complaining half of the time, we could maybe make some progress around here!!! I'd elect Judson mayor or president any day!!

somebodynew 9 years, 4 months ago

@SofaKing .... Sorry, there is a poster on CJ with the same moniker so I thought you were one and the same. My bad.

Leslie Swearingen 9 years, 4 months ago

Moral is in the mind of the beholder. I suspect there are other young people like Judson out there. They all need support and mentoring and a pat on the back when they do good. Don't make kids really act out because that is the only way to get attention. I saw someone like him on the bus the other day and it made me think, the future is looking up.He is very steady, very focusing, very smart.Kind of like Obama.I'm glad we got to hear about him.

MGSpikers 9 years, 4 months ago

Judson has shown himself to be a responsible and stand-up young man who personifies the qualities that has made this country great. He has not taken "no" for an answer, has pursued long-term research, and presented his findings lucidly and with civility to authority, all of this at age eleven! I must commend his Mom for inculcating such values to this fine young fellow. All who have read of this story know that Judson will take exceptional care of his new friend, Little Luke. With best wishes, Z. G. Standing Bear, Administrator at The Flash and Thelma Memorial Hedgehog Rescue, Divide, Colorado (

Bladerunner 9 years, 4 months ago

Big Prune...why dont you drop trow and let your gerbil breath every now and then? This is a "feel good" human interest story about a kid fighting for something he believes in. Don't turn it into a forum for your personal grips. Maybe you should run for office if you dont like the way the city is run.

justthefacts 9 years, 4 months ago

Good job Judson (and mom)! Way to work the system the way it was designed to run. Tenancity and facts often win the day (or battle). Hope Little Luke continues to be well loved and brings much joy for many years. I think the Sonic Hedgehog syndicate should get Judson on retainer now! LOL.

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