State gives Aroostook couple permit to keep pet wallaby, with conditions

By Tom Groening, BDN Staff
Posted Aug. 31, 2012, at 12:22 p.m.

ISLAND FALLS, Maine — The couple who unknowingly broke state law by purchasing a wallaby and bringing it home as a pet have reached an agreement with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Michelle Charette and Jay Batchelder have been granted a permit by IF&W, Batchelder said Thursday, with a handful of conditions. Those conditions include getting the animal vaccinated against rabies when it is old enough, probably sometime in mid-September.

An official from the department confirmed Friday morning that the agreement had been reached.

At a June appeals hearing at which Charette and Batchelder challenged IF&W’s initial denial of their permit request, state officials said they were especially concerned about the animal possibly contracting rabies and biting a person.

There was no known rabies vaccine in the state for the animal when the couple first brought the wallaby home from the New Jersey breeder from whom they purchased it. Now, an appropriate vaccine has been found and a veterinarian in Caribou who is from Australia, where the animals are native, will administer it.

The state also required that the couple establish an outside fenced area for the wallaby, named Kingston, to exercise. Batchelder said he initially purchased two 100-foot rolls of 4-foot-high wire mesh fencing, but the wardens wanted the fence 6-feet high, so the change was made.

“I got him a big play area out back,” Batchelder said. A local game warden will inspect the enclosure, he added.

The family also may build a small outbuilding so Kingston can get out of the rain, something suggested by a warden, but Batchelder said the animal comes inside the house if the weather is bad.

Kingston is not allowed to leave the property, according to the state’s conditions. He also must be on a leash, in the caged area or in the house at all times.

“It’s restricted to our property right now,” he said.

The final condition is that Kingston be neutered. The couple already had planned to have that done, and scheduled the procedure for the day after Thanksgiving, Batchelder said, when Kingston will be old enough.

Batchelder said he and Charette were pleased to get the permit, and had praise for state officials and their willingness to reconsider their initial denial.

“The state cooperated with us,” he said.

John Boland, director of the Bureau of Resource Management at IF&W, said Friday that the department in recent years has received many requests for permits for exotic pets such as koi and wallaby.

“It is quite a time commitment on our part,” he said. “There’s a pretty lengthy permitting process.”

It is not possible to just rubber-stamp the exotic requests because certain species might pose biological or social problems for the state, he said.

“You don’t have to go too far from Maine to see places where there are real problems, like snakes in Florida,” Boland said. “With the Internet, there are clubs and organizations. You can go anywhere in the world and get anything.”

Batchelder and Charette will have to reapply for their wallaby permit at the end of 2013, he said.

“Every time we issue one of these permits, it’s going to require a warden or a biologist,” Boland said. “There’s quite a bit of work associated with exotic pets.”

Batchelder said they have considered seeking an exhibitor’s license that would allow them to bring the wallaby to public places, but have not yet investigated the requirements.

Kingston now weighs between 12 pounds and 15 pounds, he said, and stands about as high as Batchelder’s knee.

House training remains a challenge, because the couple both work and aren’t home enough to teach Kingston about going outside, he said.

BDN writer Abigail Curtis contributed to this report.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/08/31/news/aroostook/state-gives-aroostook-couple-permit-to-keep-pet-wallaby-with-conditions/ printed on April 16, 2014