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Wallaby Wows 'em in Debut at Hawthorne Animal Shelter

June 04, 1987|GERALD FARIS | Times Staff Writer

The people at the animal shelter in Hawthorne are used to housing more than dogs and cats.

A few years ago, they had three young timber wolves that state game authorities had confiscated from a man who was trying to sell them.

"We've had a six-foot alligator that was found in a drainage pipe in Torrance," recalled shelter supervisor Douglas Buck. And ferrets, those small, weasel-like creatures, have been frequent guests.

Then there was the Australian wallaby who hangs out in a Cadillac.

Skippy, a 2-year-old wallaby--basically a miniature kangaroo--spent the night at the shelter this week, courtesy of two Redondo Beach police officers, who found him amid a miniature jungle of greenery in the back of his favorite haunt, a big green Caddy, on Irena Avenue.

'Friendly Critter'

"We'd never had a wallaby before," said Buck. "He was a real friendly critter."

Police discovered Skippy late Sunday afternoon after they were called by a resident, who said the grayish-black animal had been alone in the Cadillac since the evening before.

The officers said no one claimed the animal so they called the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which runs the shelter.

But a short time later, Skippy's owners--Australian animal trainer Paul Chambers and photographer Carolyn Andrews--were on the phone to police saying that their wallaby had disappeared.

"Carolyn was photographing him (in the car) and she had to get some equipment and left him," said Chambers, who lives down the block from where the car was parked.

"When she went back . . . he was gone."

Skippy was retrieved from the shelter the next morning after Chambers satisfied state Fish and Game Department authorities that he had the required permits to keep the exotic animal as a pet and performer.

"I take him all over the country and talk to schoolchildren about Australia, about how kids have wallabies as pets," Chambers said, adding that Skippy's most recent outing was to the Indianapolis 500 race over Memorial Day weekend.

The 16-year-old Cadillac Coupe de Ville is Skippy's favorite hangout, he said: "I took the back seat out for him. He has his trees and shrubs and eucalyptus leaves in there. He gets up on the seats and looks out the window."

Before he was released to Chambers--along with advice that he not be left alone in the car for more than 10 minutes--Skippy had spent the night in a large cage and dined on lettuce, broccoli and bananas.

"He was an excellent guest," Buck said, "cute, well-mannered, very tame and quiet."

Far from being lonely or afraid, Buck said, Skippy was curious about the other animals and was taken around on a leash.

"There were a few small dogs that ran to the back of their cages when they saw him," he said. "They'd never seen anything like that walking on a leash before."

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