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Woman's therapy kangaroo challenged under ADA

A woman from Oklahoma who suffers from depression has found relief from her condition in the form of a kangaroo. The kangaroo is the woman's therapy pet, and the woman's therapist has even certified the kangaroo as a therapy pet under the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, the city where the woman lives believes the kangaroo presents a public safety risk and the woman is seeking an exemption from the city council to keep her unique therapy pet.

In order to address her depression, the woman's therapist advised her to volunteer at a local animal shelter. At the shelter, the woman met Irwin, then a baby kangaroo. One week later Irwin, name after the famous Australian animal expert Steve Irwin, fractured his neck from running into a fence. As a result of the injury, the kangaroo became partially paralyzed. The woman volunteered to nurse the kangaroo back to health and over time they developed a bond.

The kangaroo, now one year old, never leaves the woman's side. The woman feeds, dresses and takes the kangaroo along on errands. The woman and the kangaroo seem to have formed a symbiotic relationship where they both improve the lives of the other. The woman says, "I can't imagine a day living without him." But the city where the woman lives is concerned about the public danger the kangaroo presents.

The kangaroo is a male, great red kangaroo that can grow up to 7 feet tall and can weigh more than 200 pounds. Irwin, though, is not expected to grow that large because of his injury. According to the kangaroo's veterinarian Irwin will not get larger than 50 pounds and because of his condition the kangaroo will also require a lifetime of care.

The city council is expected to take up the issue on April 19. The city attorney argues that any exception made would create a precedent, and the creation of a precedent will be a component of the city's consideration. The city council is also considering the creation of an exotic animal review committee that would review animals on a case-by-case basis.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, "Oklahoma woman fights to keep her therapy kangaroo," Kristi Eaton, 4/5/11

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