After seeking to remain in her home in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, with Irwin, her disabled kangaroo, Christie Carr is planning to move to Wild Heart Ranch, a wildlife rehabilitation center. While Broken Arrow officials had approved an amended exotic animal ordinance in May allowing her to keep Irwin under certain conditions, animal control officers have said that she is violating a city ordinance about keeping exotic animals because she has not completed the final application for her exotic animal permit. Carr contends that she “had worked with the city to complete the process but hadn’t received the final paperwork from the city.”
On learning that she could be fined or Irwin would be seized, Carr has gone to live with her parents’ in McAlester. She and Irwin will move into a place in Wild Heart Ranch after it is ready.
Carr’s and Irwin’s current predicament is an unfortunate development especially as it had seemed possible for them to stay in Broken Arrow. Irwin is certified as a therapy pet under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In May, the Broken Arrow City Council had voted to create an exotic animal ordinance exemption to allow Carr to keep Irwin, a red kangaroo, under certain conditions: She had to acquire a $50,000 liability insurance policy for any injuries inflicted by Irwin, as well as certification that he had appropriate housing that met all federal and state guidelines for licensing. Carr was also told that she must inform her neighbors that she has a pet kangaroo.
City officials had feared that Irwin could pose a threat to public safety. A healthy male great red kangaroo can weigh 200 pounds when fully grown, stand up to 7 feet high and jump 25 feet in one leap. But Irwin, who fractured his neck and suffered brain damage when he ran into a fence (before Carr met him), cannot stand or walk on his own. Veterinarians say that he will most likely not grow larger than 50 pounds, due to his injuries and to being neutered.
Certainly Carr devotes one-on-one care to Irwin, changing his diapers routinely and feeding him salad, raw vegetables, kangaroo chow, popcorn and cheese-flavored snacks as an occasional treat. MSNBC describes Carr’s attentive care:
The marsupial never leaves the house without first getting dressed. The clothes — a little boy’s shirt cut and sewed to accommodate his neck, sometimes a tie, and jeans or slacks with a hole cut for the tail — are necessary for therapeutic reasons and to protect him against germs, Carr said.
On a recent afternoon at his Broken Arrow home, Irwin was flopped in a beanbag chair and playing with a chew toy. Carr kneeled down with a plate of veggies and filed his nails. When it came time to play, Irwin could only manage a few imbalanced hops before tumbling to the ground.
At a meeting of the Broken Arrow City Council, Carr said of the kangaroo, ”Irwin is my life. He’s given me strength.”
Carr, who is not able to work due to her health, was not able to pay for the insurance but an anonymous donor had stepped in and paid it. But due to the dispute with the Broken Arrow City Council — a spokeswoman, Stephanie Higgins, says that Carr “has not filled out the application to keep Irwin within the city limits” — it seems that she and Irwin must find a new home. Hopefully after they have, there will be no dispute about their residing there.
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Photo of red kangaroo by Loren Sztajer
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