Pet Wallaby: 'A Dream Come True' for Student

April 27, 2009 | By Kris O'Donnell | 129 comments
Tags: strange but ture, other pets

They can cost up to $2,000, but wallabies are worth it, their owners say. (Zootoo Pet News photo by Kris O'Donnell)

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Whenever she's out on the town, 2-year-old Gehts causes quite a stir. The central Florida pet grabs attention from the mere fact she's a wallaby.

"She's like a little baby, I love her," said Gehts' mom, Suzie Charna.

Charna, a 30-year-old Central Florida University student, says it was a childhood dream come true when she bought Gehts from a Florida breeder, one of many across the country.

"You have to research how to raise them, how to love them, how to play with them," Charna said.

A two-story town home with a cat gives Gehts romping space and company. Yet Charna says there are challenges -- such as a wallaby's tendency to chew as forest-dwelling creatures. Ultimately, Gehts just needs the same thing every pet requires to thrive.

"They need their exercise, so they need the time outside," Charna said. "And they need love. They really want you to love them."

There are 15 different species of wallaby ranging in size from a small- to medium-size dog.

"They're smaller animals, much smaller than the red and gray kangaroos people think about," said John Lehnhardt, animal operations director for Disney's Animal Kingdom. "They have a wide range of habitat, mostly in eastern Australia."

Disney officials say they try to let the animals live as wild a life as possible.

"Their personal response to you is not very strong," Lehnhardt said. "They're much more independent. You know, they're an herbivore who likes to be out doing what they do," he said.

Unfortunately, many wallabies aren't so lucky, like the 11 wallabies that currently reside at the Fallin' Pines Critter Rescue, in Christmas, Fla. Founder Shirley Canaan says her first wallaby arrived in 1992 and more have trickled in through the years.

"They see something cute and say, 'I want it,' " Cannan said of people's attraction to animals as possible pets. "I hate that because that's how all these animals got here."

It is not known how many wallabies are called pets by Americans, but breeders report sales are steady -- despite the average price tag of $2,000.

"There's nothing good about a wallaby as a pet unless you have acreage or eight foot high fencing," Cannan said.

Suzie Charna says she feel much differently about her wallaby; but she adamantly agrees people need to do their homework.

"They get it and they find out it's way too much for them to handle and they just abandon it," Charna said of the irresponsible pet ownership trend. "It's not fair to the poor baby."

As for her baby, Charna says she'd never give her up.

"I look at her as a precious little angel," she said. "I love her."

The rules regarding exotic or wild animals vary by state. Some states ban ownership outright while others require a permit.

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Comments (103)

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Moroferret
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Moroferret
4 years ago

ALL animals once came from wild stock. Even your beloved dogs and cats.

I know no one around here can seem to grasp this concept, but not everyone is a cat or dog person.

There is nothing wrong with having an "exotic" pet as long as it it properly cared for like any other animal should be.

Just because you don't understand it, and it's different from your Fluffy, Buddy, and Fido doesn't mean it should be illegal.

Good Point | Reply ›

Ninaof2girls
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Ninaof2girls
4 years ago

I'm glad this girl did her homework but this animal is not a pet and shouldn't be allowed to be one. We need more laws to control what kind of pets people should be allowed to adopt. We have enough problems with cats and dogs being abondoned without wallaby's and so many other exotic animals being abandoned after their owners decide the thrill is gone and they don't want to deal with it anymore. This girl sounds responsible but there are too many others who are not. Why not go and volunteer in a shelter or at a zoo and take care of some of these animals that need care and help in your spare time and get your thrills that way and leave the exotics in the wild where they belong.

Good Point | Reply ›

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