Gardai quiz circus owner over 'wallaby death at disco' claims
Published 20/10/2010 | 05:00
DETECTIVES have questioned a circus owner about allegations that a wallaby died after being plied with drink at a birthday disco.
The marsupial was let loose among more than 150 revellers dancing at the Clarion Hotel in Liffey Valley, west Dublin, to the theme tune of Australian television show 'Skippy the Bush Kangaroo'.
Outraged animal welfare campaigners sparked an official garda investigation when they passed on complaints about the alleged mistreatment of the animal.
Alexander Scholl, owner of Australian Super Circus Sydney, situated 500 metres away from the hotel, yesterday told officers he had two wallabies -- 'Skippy' and 'Sydney' ---but rubbished claims either of them was used in the incident.
"They think it was one of my wallabies but it definitely was not.
"I would never lend them out to a nightclub with all the noisy music," he said.
"Someone told them the wallaby was dead. I said if it is dead then it is not one of my wallabies. I showed them Skippy and Sydney."
Officers launched an inquiry after complaints were passed on from a witness at the 30th birthday celebrations and others who saw a video uploaded to Facebook.
They have been handed CCTV footage from the hotel.
"There is no evidence at this stage of a body, or evidence to suggest it is dead," said a garda source.
The video footage showed an animal, which appeared to be either a kangaroo or a wallaby -- a smaller, more common Australian marsupial -- being released on to the dancefloor as the DJ played the 'Skippy the Bush Kangaroo' theme tune.
Dozens of the partygoers at the hotel took photographs and filmed the animal as it was manhandled and lifted in to the air to flashing lights and cheering from the crowd.
Hotel manager Garret Marrinan said a duty manager became suspicious when he noticed a commotion around the dancefloor in a hired function room at around 11pm on Saturday.
"By the time he got down through the crowd, the animal and the box were gone," he said.
"We had no idea where it came in or how it got out of the hotel. The whole thing was all a bit upsetting to be honest with you."
Mr Marrinan said the hotel was giving every help it could to gardai. The Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) said it had received five complaints including one person who claimed to be at the party.
Orla Aungier, DSPCA operations manager, said the marsupial was more likely a wallaby than a small kangaroo, because they are easier to buy in Ireland.
"At some point during the party, what we believe to be a wallaby was brought on to the dancefloor," she said.
"We have also been told that after the party, the animal had died. That is only alleged, but the most important thing for us is to find out where the animal is and if it is okay."
Ms Aungier said kangaroos and wallabies needed very specialised care and would have been distressed by being handled and the loud music and flashing lights of a crowded disco.
Gardai said the allegations will be thoroughly investigated and partygoers questioned about what happened after the incident was captured on hotel surveillance cameras.
A garda source confirmed allegations had been made that a wallaby died after being given alcohol but added they had yet to see any evidence to back up the claims.
"After the CCTV footage, no one knows what happened, good, bad or indifferent," said the source.
Mr Scholl said he hires his wallabies out for nursery schools but would not have allowed them into a nightclub.
The circus owner said he holds the keys for the trailer in which Skippy and Sydney are kept at night. "I put them in the box, me myself, so no one else has touched them," he said.
Mr Scholl said he bought his wallabies in Cookstown, Northern Ireland, earlier this year.
Wallabies are classified as exotic animals in Ireland so there is no legislation on their breeding or ownership.
They are offered for sale on online classifieds sites at around €700. The DSPCA said websites are also offering zebras and emus for sale.