Unconventional pets not all that uncommon

Photosy by Caitlin O'Hara/The Herald
Amber McIntyre played with her Flemish giant rabbit, Thumper, at her home Wednesday in Jasper. McIntyre adopted the 10-month-old rabbit earlier this month. Thumper weighs 10 pounds but could grow to reach 25 pounds. “It’s like having another person around,” said McIntyre’s boyfriend, Jacob Nash.

Herald Staff Writer

The conversation started with a pig.

When Huntingburg resident Michael Bauer’s wife, Allison, said she wanted a Vietnamese potbelly pig, he thought it was a bit of an odd request. But he got her the pig anyway.

The 1-year-old pig named Bailey has been the center of debate with the Huntingburg City Council, which is on the verge of changing the city’s animal ordinance to allow the pig to reside within city limits. As of this moment, potbelly pigs are, just like any other swine, restricted from residing within a residence.

While the debate whether Bailey can stay or not nears its end,— a final vote is expected during the city council meeting Thursday — it’s of note that the presence of unusual pets didn’t actually start with a pig. At least, not this one.

“We had a woman in Jasper bring her potbelly pig in here just a couple months ago,” said Eric Majors, owner of Seven Seas Pet Store in Jasper. “That’s really not that uncommon. Actually, you used to see a lot more of them around.”

Majors has been running the downtown pet store for 32 years. During that time, he’s seen his fair share of odd animals pass through his door. Sometimes, he’s called to a property by a pet owner seeking advice.

“Someone had an alligator a couple of years ago,” Majors said. “That one was a little unusual.”

In Indiana, an owner must obtain a permit for each wild animal they possess. That includes crocodilians that are at least 5 feet long, according to the Website bornfreeusa.org.

Jacob Nash held with his Mali Uromastyx, a reptile named Spike, at his Jasper home on Wednesday. Nash and his girlfriend don’t settle for ordinary pets. They also own a rabbit, which they walk on a dog leash, that could grow to 25 pounds.

In his store, Majors primarily sells birds, fish, hamsters and reptiles. He does get requests for exotic animals but always makes sure the requested animal will comply with ordinance that pertain to wherever the prospective pet owner resides.

“The (Department of Natural Resources) will send me a letter every few years letting me know what’s going on,” Majors said. Additionally, the popular pet store trade magazine Pet Product News contains a legislative section keeping store owners aware of state laws.

For instance, animals indigenous to Indiana, such as turtles, cannot be sold by a pet store. The DNR cites near extinction of turtles as the reason for the prohibition. Other animals such as chickens, roosters and even squirrels are prohibited for habitation.

Majors said he has received requests to take in wild or exotic animals, which he will not do.

“Someone had me come out to their house to look at a red-tailed hawk. I just walked back the other direction,” Majors said. “Those are illegal to have and I’m not a veterinarian anyway. I run a pet store, not an avian hospital.”

Seven Seas employee Lori Pyle said the store receives a substantial number of requests for Burmese pythons. Those requests are not granted because the Southeast Asian native often grow to around 12 feet (they have been recorded at 19 feet).

“We have ordered a lot of tarantulas for people here in Jasper. We’ve had some scorpions, too,” Pyle said. The store currently has a piranha, which is sometimes fed a goldfish as a supplement to its diet of fish flakes. Seven Seas sold three chinchillas last month; the squirrel-sized rodent, known for its velvet-like fur, came straight from a local breeder.

Amber McIntyre played with Thumper at her home Wednesday in Jasper.

Recently the store sold a 10-pound Flemish giant rabbit named Thumper. The rabbit, which could grow to 25 pounds and belongs to Jasper residents Jacob Nash and Amber McIntyre, already rivals the size of a small dog.

“Anybody can get a dog and take it on the Riverwalk or wherever. But it takes a special kind of pet to get people to say ‘What the (heck) is that?’” Nash said on the couple’s decision to adopt a bizarre pet. “It’s different, and it’s fun being different.”

“We’ll put him out on his leash and just let him hop around and eat clovers,” McIntyre said.

They take Thumper with them on outings around town on a leash designed for dogs.

Thumper is not their first unconventional pet. The two also own a Mali Uromastyx, a prehistoric-looking reptile with a lizard’s body and a tail resembling an armadillo.

“That’s why I bought him, because he looks like a dinosaur,” Nash said.

Majors said avoiding requests for oddball pets and being familiar with local legislation has kept his store out of any issues.

“In my 32 years here I’ve never had any problems with city ordinances,” he said. “It’s all about keeping up with what’s going on.”

Contact Jonathan Streetman at jstreetman@dcherald.com.

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