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They're cute, smart and like to snuggle in their owner's pocket — and it soon may be legal to have one in the city of Madison.

Ald. Matt Phair, 20th District, is proposing to change city ordinances on possession of exotic or wild animals so Madisonians can legally possess sugar gliders, small nocturnal marsupials native mainly to Australia but fast becoming a popular "pocket pet" — they literally like to hang out in their owner's shirt pocket — in North America.

"A growing number of people have them as pets," Phair said.

Currently, it's illegal in the city to possess sugar gliders or other marsupials like opossums or kangaroos. But it's legal in Dane County, which has no regulations for exotic or wild animals. The county is now finalizing new rules.

Phair said he introduced the proposal to the City Council last month at the request of Public Health of Madison and Dane County, which wants to align city regulations with forthcoming county rules. The council will decide the ordinance change at a later date. The proposed county rules, which would allow sugar gliders and all other marsupials, including kangaroos, are being reviewed by committees.

Kimberley Tadder of Oregon, who has had sugar gliders as pets for nearly five years and currently has a dozen of them, has lobbied to make them legal in Madison and other places.

The attraction: "They're so cute," she said. "The cute factor just blows you away."

Although its illegal to have a sugar glider in the city, Public Health doesn't enforce the law because no one complains and the animals are not a safety threat, animal services lead worker Patrick Comfert said.

"We consider them not to be a dangerous animal," he said. "The intent (of the law) is to have a tool to deal with lions and tigers and bears."

Sugar gliders, which weigh less than a half pound and are about a half-foot long plus a bushy tail, are named for their sweet tooth and furry membranes extending from wrist to ankle that let them glide through the air like a flying squirrel.

They are highly social and crave companionship, which makes them bond to their owners. During sleepy days, they like to be in a pouch in their cage, around the owner's neck, or in a shirt or coat pocket.

The social nature of sugar gliders, which can cost from $150 to more than $4,000, depending on color and genetics, mean owners often acquire a pair or more, Tadder said.

"They're like Lay's potato chips," she said. "You can't have just one."

But Tadder and experts strongly advise prospective owners to do some research. Owners must be willing to spend hours of interaction with sugar gliders every day or the animals may become depressed, withdrawn or even die. Also, gliders eventually need a large cage with room to jump and glide, they have a special diet, can sometimes be smelly, and may require veterinary care.

"They're definitely a pet with a lot of special needs," said Dr. Carla Christman of the Healthy Pet Clinic, 1440 E. Washington Ave.

Sometimes owners are unprepared for the responsibility and eventually offer gliders for rescue, said Tadder, who has saved several of the animals.

"Don't buy on impulse," Tadder said. "Do the education first."

DEAN MOSIMAN

608-252-6141

They're cute, smart and like to snuggle in their owner's pocket — and it soon may be legal to have one in the city of Madison.

Ald. Matt Phair, 20th District, is proposing to change city ordinances on possession of exotic or wild animals so Madisonians can legally possess sugar gliders, small nocturnal marsupials native mainly to Australia but fast becoming a popular "pocket pet" — they literally like to hang out in their owner's shirt pocket — in North America.

"A growing number of people have them as pets," Phair said.

Currently, it's illegal in the city to possess sugar gliders or other marsupials like opossums or kangaroos. But it's legal in Dane County, which has no regulations for exotic or wild animals. The county is now finalizing new rules.

Phair said he introduced the proposal to the City Council last month at the request of Public Health of Madison and Dane County, which wants to align city regulations with forthcoming county rules. The council will decide the ordinance change at a later date. The proposed county rules, which would allow sugar gliders and all other marsupials, including kangaroos, are being reviewed by committees.

Kimberley Tadder of Oregon, who has had sugar gliders as pets for nearly five years and currently has a dozen of them, has lobbied to make them legal in Madison and other places.

The attraction: "They're so cute," she said. "The cute factor just blows you away."

Although its illegal to have a sugar glider in the city, Public Health doesn't enforce the law because no one complains and the animals are not a safety threat, animal services lead worker Patrick Comfert said.

"We consider them not to be a dangerous animal," he said. "The intent (of the law) is to have a tool to deal with lions and tigers and bears."

Sugar gliders, which weigh less than a half pound and are about a half-foot long plus a bushy tail, are named for their sweet tooth and furry membranes extending from wrist to ankle that let them glide through the air like a flying squirrel.

They are highly social and crave companionship, which makes them bond to their owners. During sleepy days, they like to be in a pouch in their cage, around the owner's neck, or in a shirt or coat pocket.

The social nature of sugar gliders, which can cost from $150 to more than $4,000, depending on color and genetics, mean owners often acquire a pair or more, Tadder said.

"They're like Lay's potato chips," she said. "You can't have just one."

But Tadder and experts strongly advise prospective owners to do some research. Owners must be willing to spend hours of interaction with sugar gliders every day or the animals may become depressed, withdrawn or even die. Also, gliders eventually need a large cage with room to jump and glide, they have a special diet, can sometimes be smelly, and may require veterinary care.

"They're definitely a pet with a lot of special needs," said Dr. Carla Christman of the Healthy Pet Clinic, 1440 E. Washington Ave.

Sometimes owners are unprepared for the responsibility and eventually offer gliders for rescue, said Tadder, who has saved several of the animals.

"Don't buy on impulse," Tadder said. "Do the education first."

DEAN MOSIMAN | Wisconsin State Journal | dmosiman@madison.com | 608-252-6141They're cute, smart and like to snuggle in their owner's pocket — and it soon may be legal to have one in the city of Madison.Ald. Matt Phair, 20th District, is proposing to change city ordinances on possession of exotic or wild animals so Madisonians can legally possess sugar gliders, small nocturnal marsupials native mainly to Australia but fast becoming a popular "pocket pet" — they literally like to hang out in their owner's shirt pocket — in North America."A growing number of people have them as pets," Phair said.Currently, it's illegal in the city to possess sugar gliders or other marsupials like opossums or kangaroos. But it's legal in Dane County, which has no regulations for exotic or wild animals. The county is now finalizing new rules.Phair said he introduced the proposal to the City Council last month at the request of Public Health of Madison and Dane County, which wants to align city regulations with forthcoming county rules. The council will decide the ordinance change at a later date. The proposed county rules, which would allow sugar gliders and all other marsupials, including kangaroos, are being reviewed by committees.Kimberley Tadder of Oregon, who has had sugar gliders as pets for nearly five years and currently has a dozen of them, has lobbied to make them legal in Madison and other places.The attraction: "They're so cute," she said. "The cute factor just blows you away."Although its illegal to have a sugar glider in the city, Public Health doesn't enforce the law because no one complains and the animals are not a safety threat, animal services lead worker Patrick Comfert said."We consider them not to be a dangerous animal," he said. "The intent (of the law) is to have a tool to deal with lions and tigers and bears."Sugar gliders, which weigh less than a half pound and are about a half-foot long plus a bushy tail, are named for their sweet tooth and furry membranes extending from wrist to ankle that let them glide through the air like a flying squirrel.They are highly social and crave companionship, which makes them bond to their owners. During sleepy days, they like to be in a pouch in their cage, around the owner's neck, or in a shirt or coat pocket.The social nature of sugar gliders, which can cost from $150 to more than $4,000, depending on color and genetics, mean owners often acquire a pair or more, Tadder said."They're like Lay's potato chips," she said. "You can't have just one."But Tadder and experts strongly advise prospective owners to do some research. Owners must be willing to spend hours of interaction with sugar gliders every day or the animals may become depressed, withdrawn or even die. Also, gliders eventually need a large cage with room to jump and glide, they have a special diet, can sometimes be smelly, and may require veterinary care."They're definitely a pet with a lot of special needs," said Dr. Carla Christman of the Healthy Pet Clinic, 1440 E. Washington Ave.Sometimes owners are unprepared for the responsibility and eventually offer gliders for rescue, said Tadder, who has saved several of the animals."Don't buy on impulse," Tadder said. "Do the education first."

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