The caller was right. Noah, a 4-year-old wallaby, had been hopping around Platte City after escaping his owners’ backyard during a feeding. Noah made it about two blocks before he wound up fenced inside the yard of a nursing home.
While a wallaby on the lam made for great TV news on a typically eventless holiday, Noah’s escapade could also result in his never going home to Emily Wood, his 16-year-old owner. Platte City doesn’t allow its residents to own exotic animals. The code bans "any warm blooded, carnivorous or omnivorous, wild or exotic animals (including, but not limited to, non-human primates, raccoons, skunks, foxes and wild and exotic cats; but excluding fowl, ferrets and small rodents of varieties used for laboratory purposes)." The species isn’t listed by name, but the 3-foot-tall marsupial may fall into the banned category.
Noah is staying at the Kansas City Zoo as the Platte City Public Safety Sub-Committee gathers information. The committee will issue a recommendation to the Board of Aldermen in January on whether Wood and Noah can be reunited.
Last week, Wood told the subcommittee that her family would leave the city before losing the pet.
"We are adjusting quite nicely to our schools and wouldn’t like to have to move, if we didn’t have to, in order to keep him,” she said, according to Fox 4 News. “But if it came down to it, we would."
Finding a nearby wallaby-friendly town won’t be easy. Most cities in the Kansas City metropolitan area have bans on keeping nontraditional animals.
In Parkville, for instance, the city law outlaws ownership of "exotic or wild" animals, which are described as "any mammal, fowl, fish or any other species not commonly considered as pets or commonly raised for food or agricultural purposes which pose a possible threat to the life or health of humans." It’s up to Parkville Police Chief Kevin Chrisman to decide whether animals fit the legal definition. A wallaby, Chrisman says, is definitely a wild animal.
"It would not be acceptable in Parkville, and I think you would find that in any city," he says.
Indeed, animal-control agencies in several cities contacted by The Pitch say wallabies would fall under dangerous-animal bans. Overland Park, for instance, outlaws animals that "due to size, vicious nature or other characteristics would constitute a danger to human life, physical well-being, or property." An Overland Park animal-control officer says it’s highly unlikely that a wallaby would be allowed to call that city home.
The story is similar in North Kansas City, where banned animals are listed as "including but not limited to nonhuman primates, raccoons, skunks, foxes, leopards, panthers, tigers, lions, and any member of the canine species other than domestic dog." An Animal Control staff member there says he doubts that Noah would be welcome.
Kansas City isn’t an option because both the city and Jackson County have broad bans on exotic animals. A chimpanzee named Suco got loose and smashed a police car last year. The city held a widely publicized trial and found Suco’s owners guilty of keeping her in the city.
So it appears that Noah’s best hope is a reprieve from the Platte City Public Safety Sub-Committee.