Kangaroo can stay with disabled woman, Okla. officials decide

Irwin, disabled kangaroo
disabled kangaroo
Irwin, the disabled kangaroo at the center of the exotic animals debate in Broken Arrow, Okla.

(CBS/AP) BROKEN ARROW, Oklahoma - The city council in Broken Arrow has told a disabled woman that her kangaroo is a keeper.

Officials unanimously voted Tuesday night to create an exemption to an exotic animal ordinance, allowing Christie Carr to keep Irwin the red kangaroo within city limits, under certain conditions.

Carr, who is clinically depressed, was told she can keep the animal at her home in the northeast Oklahoma city,  weeks after she was warned her therapy pet might be taken away.

Carr is unable to work because of her health and has found comfort in the companionship of Irwin, whom she met while volunteering at a local animal sanctuary on the advice of her therapist.

"Irwin is my life," she said at Tuesday's council meeting. "He's given me strength."

The kangaroo is partially paralyzed.

Irwin fractured his neck and suffered brain damage when he ran into a fence, and Carr offered to take him home and nurse him back to health. The animal can only hop with assistance, and cannot stand or walk on his own.

Council members had been concerned that the kangaroo could present a risk to public safety. Native to Australia, healthy male great red kangaroos can grow up to 7 feet tall, weigh more than 200 pounds and bound 25 feet in a single leap.

But veterinarians say Irwin will probably not grow larger than 50 pounds because of his injury and because he has been neutered. Carr's therapist has certified the animal as a therapy pet under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"My life centers around him," Carr said. "Irwin has brought me out of my shell."

The permit to keep the kangaroo, as well as other exotic animals, would require owners to have a $50,000 liability insurance policy for any injuries inflicted by an animal, certification that the animal has adequate housing for its health and meet all federal and state guidelines for licensing, among other provisions.

"We believe this provides the necessary protection for the city," said City Manager David Wooden. Councilman Johnnie Parks also mentioned that neighbors who live near Carr would have to be notified that she has a pet kangaroo.

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April 1, 2011 - Okla. woman wants to keep disabled kangaroo as therapy pet