Pet Emu Goes to Petting Zoo While Owner Fights City to Keep It

A North Carolina woman has temporarily given her pet emu to a petting zoo while she appeals the decision of city officials in Charlotte to get it out of the neighborhood by July 31. Shellie Pincay says her pet emu has lived in her backyard for about 10 years. "It's basically like a child because I've had her since she was a little baby," Pincay told Charlotte station WBTV. "It's like giving up something you treasure, that you've taken care of for a very long time and I just think it's very unfair."

Pincay's neighbors say the animal is bringing rats and flies into the neighborhood because they are attracted to the bird's food and the smell. "[It] has a horrendous smell -- especially in the summer -- it draws flies," says neighbor Willie Williams, whose house sits behind the emu's pen. He adds that he's called city officials several times to complain.

"An emu is an exotic animal and therefore is in violation of City of Charlotte ordinance," Animal Control wrote in a news release. "Permits that Ms. Pincay had received in the past were issued in error and she will not be able to receive a new permit for the emu."

Legal or not, anything viewed as a persistent nuisance can bring down a neighborhood's home values. In a case similar to the one in Charlotte, reported by AOL Real Estate earlier this year, homeowners in Mayfield, N.Y., cited the presence of exotic animals as a reason for their plummeting home values. Their neighbor, Steve Salton, keeps tigers and leopards as pets at his home.

Salton, who started caring for the large cats at his home in 2007, said he does so because he's passionate about caring for endangered species. "I made a commitment, and I won't back away from it."

But maybe there's a glimmer of hope for Pincay. A Texas family recently won its fight against its homeowners association to keep its pet kangaroo. Nick and Jeni Dreis of Spring, Texas, brought home a 6-month-old red kangaroo as a vocational training animal for their 16-year-old daughter Kala, who has Down syndrome. Although the HOA protested, it backed down once they realized the kangaroo was being used for therapy purposes.