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Small farm is haven for unusual animals

Posted: Tuesday, May 30, 2000

An Alaska AP Member Exchange

JUNEAU (AP) -- Annie Sidney has chosen a pet with permanent body odor.

In America, where pet owners prize cats that don't shed and dogs that don't bark, a foul-smelling billy goat may seem an odd choice.

But not for Sidney, 23, who grew up at Swampy Acres, a 9-acre farm and feed store. Over the years, the farm has played host to pigs, miniature horses, a peacock and a burro.

The goat is Pepper, AKA ''Stinky,'' an African pygmy goat. Sidney purchased Pepper and his mate, Kenya, in Oregon last summer, intending to breed them and sell some of their offspring. Right on schedule for goats that breed only in the fall, Kenya delivered her first litter of three kids on May 16.

Male African pygmy goats are 16 to 24 inches tall; females are about four inches shorter. At birth, the kids weighed only 2 or 3 pounds. The male kid will be neutered so he won't smell and will be offered for sale.

African pygmy goats are more common in zoos than in backyards, but they make excellent pets, Sidney said.

''They're good companions,'' she said. ''They love attention and being brushed. They're like big dogs -- but they don't sit or stay; and if you say, 'Come,' they look at you with disbelief.''

Sue MacGregor, owner of the Wee Fishie Shoppe, can order unusual pets, but only if they are legal in Alaska.

MacGregor will custom order ferrets, hedgehogs and bearded dragons, ''if we feel comfortable with the person who is ordering,'' she said. ''We try to check to make sure the person is aware of what they're getting into.''

The bearded dragon is one of this year's ''hot'' pets. Indigenous to Australia, this lizard is now being bred in California. It measures about 10 inches, including the tail.

''The neat thing is that it is one of the few lizards that actually seems to get tame and enjoy being handled,'' MacGregor said. The bearded dragon dines on salad greens and insects, she added, with the occasional newborn mouse on holidays.

The degu, a rodent popular in the Lower 48 and something like a giant hamster, is illegal in Alaska, MacGregor said. Bruce Dinneford, wildlife biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game, is keeper of the official list of pets that are permitted.

''We call that 'the clean list,''' he said. ''It's part of the Alaska Administrative Code.''

None of the species permitted as pets and livestock may be released into the wild, Dinneford said.

''Sometimes we get into issues with ferrets or raccoons that they might establish a breeding population in the wild, and this might spread disease or be competition for space or food with wild species,'' Dinneford said.



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