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Girl who was granted a "unicorn license" shows what's possible with imagination and determination

California girl gets license to own a unicorn
California girl gets license to own a unicorn 06:00

Seven-year-old Madeline, who lives in California, is obsessed with unicorns. It's their magical horn that makes them so special, she says, noting, "It grants you magic wishes if you ask."

She likes them so much she wanted one of her own, and wrote to her county's animal control department asking for permission to have one in her backyard — if she could find one. 

Last month, Los Angeles County officials agreed, and issued her the first-of-its-kind unicorn license.

"I think I've learned if you want something, then you have to ask for it," Madeline told CBS News. "And to ask for it, you have to do something to ask for it." 

Fascination with unicorns dates back to ancient times. The mythical creature is the real national animal of Scotland. In Celtic mythology, it is a symbol of purity, innocence and power.

Madeline has been smitten with unicorns since she was 3 and can tell you anything you want to know, including how to take care of one. It's important to make sure they can see rainbows, sunlight and moonbeams, she said, "so I'm going to make the barn have a glass roof."

She also knows where unicorns live: "In the magical forest of Scotland."

But Madeline has never been to Scotland. So, how does she plan to get her unicorn?

"I'm going to take an airplane, and then I'm going to find the unicorn in the magical forest and bring it back on the airplane," she said.

Writing a letter to L.A. County about owning a unicorn was Madeline's mom's suggestion. In November, her mom, Leilani, suggested Madeline learn the rules of owning a large animal by writing to Los Angeles County's Department of Animal Care and Control.

Leilani said Madeline is a very curious girl and "anything that she proposes, we want to encourage and support."

"So when she came up to me with this idea I thought, 'OK, we can do this, but let's do it through the proper measures of seeing what's required to maintain such a large animal,'" Leilani said.

Marcia Mayeda, the director of Animal Care and Control for L.A. County, got Madeline's letter and wrote her back.

"The first requirement is that she comply with all county regulations about keeping animals," said Mayeda. "That she had to feed the unicorn watermelon at least once a week 'cause that's their favorite treat. ... She had to polish the unicorn's horn at least once a month with a soft cloth."

And any sparkles or glitter used on the unicorn must be non-toxic and biodegradable.

After agreeing to follow the rules, Madeline visited the animal care center on her 7th birthday to get her unicorn license — the first-ever issued by L.A. County.

"I think the takeaway for parents is to support your children's dreams, you know, don't stifle them," Mayeda said. "I think it's really important that adults do that."

When L.A. County shared Madeline's story on social media, it went viral, touching hearts around the world.

"I would just like to thank you for reducing me to a blubbering, weeping mess when I read about your beautiful piece of kindness to Madeline," read one letter in response to the news of the unicorn license. "I'm a 6-foot, 240-pound piece of British meat who has seen his fair share of savagery and nastiness in the world ... animals and humans alike should be grateful, as you make the world a better place."

Mayeda said, "We're just kinda riding on that wave of joy."

For Madeline's father, Zack, the takeaway is: "There's really still a lot of that innocence and just pure joy still out there, and it's a lot of fun to follow."

After all, a child's imagination is boundless.

The Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation set up Madeline's Unicorn Fund where people can donate $25 to receive their own unicorn license. 

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