BROKEN ARROW, Okla. - A depressed woman can keep a partially paralyzed kangaroo at her home in a northeast Oklahoma city, officials have agreed, just weeks after she was warned that the therapy pet might be run out of town.
The Broken Arrow City Council unanimously voted Tuesday night to create an exotic animal ordinance exemption that would allow Christie Carr to keep Irwin the red kangaroo within city limits under certain conditions.
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 Tuesday at the council meeting. "He's given me strength.
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. Irwin cannot stand or walk on his own, although he can hop with assistance.
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 would require exotic animal owners to have a $50,000 liability insurance policy for any injuries inflicted by the 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.
Carr had been devastated because she couldn't afford to buy an insurance policy for Irwin, and was certain that the pair would have to move out of her Broken Arrow home. But last month an anonymous donor paid for Irwin's insurance.
She changes Irwin's diaper several times a day. She feeds him salad, raw vegetables, kangaroo chow, popcorn and the occasional Cheez-Its or a handful of Cheetos.
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.