Officials kick around request
BY SUSAN HYLTON World Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
5/31/12 at 8:13 AM
BROKEN ARROW - An exemption to keep a kangaroo in the city limits wasn't in Christie Carr's pocket Tuesday night.
But she didn't leave the City Council meeting hopping mad, either.
Councilors agreed to further research her request to keep an exotic animal, despite a city ordinance and a legal opinion that discouraged it, once Carr shared details about her unusual life with Irwin, a red kangaroo.
"Irwin's my therapy as much as I'm his therapy," she said.
After Carr suffered from depression and attempted suicide, her therapist suggested that she work with animals, she said.
She had been volunteering at Safari's Sanctuary in Broken Arrow for about a week when Irwin, fresh from his mother's pouch, was severely injured.
The young kangaroo ran into a fence post and suffered a broken neck and brain injury that left him paralyzed.
He wasn't expected to survive.
Carr took him home and gave him around-the-clock care. About a year later, Irwin still cannot stand alone or hop, but he has recovered some feeling and can make small movements.
Carr said she began taking him to nursing homes and assisted-living centers, where Irwin, dapper in a suit and tie, brought smiles to empty faces.
"He's brought me so much joy," she said.
At home, Carr has found that a bean bag chair makes the perfect recliner for Irwin, who likes to watch cartoons.
He eats kangaroo pellets, fruits and vegetables and loves to snack on popcorn.
Although she bathes him often - which he hates - some people say he has a curious odor of corn chips. When Carr asks Irwin to give someone a hug, he lays his head on the person's chest.
"It'll be a long time before he can hop from here to your desk without falling," Carr told the council.
"The brain injury left him where his hands are like a quadriplegic. When he tries to hop, he leans to one side, his legs cross and he trips over his tail."
Carr said the injury stunted Irwin's growth. She had him neutered, which she said would prevent him from becoming aggressive, as adolescent kangaroos normally do.
"He shouldn't get any taller, and he is 25 pounds now," she said.
Her veterinarian told her that if she and Irwin weren't together, he wouldn't live, Carr said.
"At this point, I'm not so sure how I'll do" if forced to give up Irwin. "I can't imagine a day without him," she said, crying.
Councilors were especially interested in a letter from Carr's Claremore veterinarian that said Irwin's disposition as a brain-injured animal most likely will be docile and friendly.
They also were interested in Irwin's status as a therapy pet through the Americans With Disabilities Act.
City Attorney Beth Anne Wilkening said Carr appears to be a responsible pet owner but that kangaroos are wild animals.
"Our concern is the 6-foot vertical jump. It's our belief that he may be a little less dangerous, but he is a wild animal, and they are unpredictable," Wilkening said.
"He's a good-looking guy, but he is still a kangaroo."
Wilkening said granting an exception would make it difficult to turn down other requests for exemptions.
But Councilor Richard Carter said he thought there should be a way to make an exception to the ordinance when there's a legitimate reason.
"I admire you for what you've done for Irwin and the humanity you've shown," he said. "I make a motion we review this again in (the city's Legal Department) and come back at the next meeting with possible solutions."
Councilor Jill Norman asked if she could meet Irwin, and Carr said that would not be a problem.
Mayor Mike Lester said, "Let it be said that Broken Arrow did not hold a kangaroo court" this evening.
The city's kangaroo case comes two years after a controversy over a miniature-horse.
Resident Greg Copeland was cited for a misdemeanor in 2008 for keeping a pet miniature horse at his residence in a gated section of a west Broken Arrow subdivision.
Copeland fought the charge, and a municipal jury ruled in his favor in February 2009.
Susan Hylton 918-581-8381
Christie Carr hands a stuffed animal to Irwin as he reclines in a bean bag chair in her Broken Arrow home. Irwin is handicapped from an injury he suffered when he was a joey. The City Council will consider Carr's request for an exemption to keep Irwin in her home. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Christie Carr dresses up Irwin, who is classified as a therapy pet through the Americans With Disabilities Act, when she takes him to nursing homes. STEPHEN PINGRY/ Tulsa World