Tuesday 25 July 2017

Kangaroo helps woman's depression

Christie Carr dresses her kangaroo Irwin at her home in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma (AP)
Christie Carr dresses her kangaroo Irwin at her home in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma (AP)

An Oklahoma woman suffering from depression has found solace in the company of an unusual companion, but local officials worry that the therapy pet - a partially paralysed kangaroo - could become a public safety risk.

Christie Carr is seeking an exemption from Broken Arrow City Council to keep Irwin, a 25lb great red kangaroo she cares for much like a child. Irwin rides in a car seat, is dressed in a shirt and trousers each day and is rarely away from his doting caretaker.

At the advice of her therapist, Ms Carr began volunteering at a local animal sanctuary, where she met Irwin, then just a baby. Less than a week later, the kangaroo, named after famed Australian animal expert Steve Irwin, ran into a fence, fracturing his neck and causing severe brain damage.

Ms Carr volunteered to take the animal home and, while nursing him back to health, developed a bond. Irwin cannot stand or walk on his own, although he is slowly regaining mobility and can hop three or four times in a row with assistance, she said. "Irwin will not live if I have to give him up," she said, adding: "I can't imagine a day living without him."

Healthy male great red kangaroos can grow up to 7ft, weigh more than 200lb and bound 25ft in a single leap, but because of his accident, Irwin isn't expected to get larger than 50lb, vet Lesleigh Cash Warren wrote in a letter to the council supporting Ms Carr's request. Neutering has also lessened any chance he will become aggressive.

"Irwin cannot be judged as any normal kangaroo," Dr Warren wrote. "He is a unique animal due to his disabilities and will require a lifetime of care and concern for his welfare."

Ms Carr, who is unable to work because of her health, changes Irwin's nappy several times a day. She feeds him salad, raw vegetables, popcorn and the occasional handful of crisps.

Broken Arrow Mayor Mike Lester said he worries what could happen if Irwin was able to regain full mobility. The council last week delayed considering the issue until an April 19 meeting, to give lawyers and other staff time to research the issue. "There's just a myriad of things we need to consider," Mr Lester said.

Every exception made sets a precedent, and the council must take that into consideration, lawyers said. The council may decide to create an exotic animal review committee that would look at each animal on a case-by-case basis.

Broken Arrow Nursing Home owner Joanna Cooper said she doesn't understand why keeping Irwin has become an issue. "Why are people giving her problems when people have tigers and pit bulls?"

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