Some not amused
Zebra's owners want pranksters to wear stripes

OXFORD - Barcode, the zebra Oxford College officials found on the third floor of Seney Hall Wednesday morning, was getting back to normal Thursday afternoon.

"He was really hyper yesterday," said his owner Curtis Jackson, an alumnus of the college. "He's better today."

Jackson and his wife, Sherry, who live less than a mile from the school on more than 50 acres, said they believe Oxford College students broke through two fences to steal Barcode during the early morning hours Wednesday.

"The bolts were off (the gate), and I heard they cut the fence somewhere," Curtis said Thursday afternoon. "I found two bananas and a big hunk of celery outside the gate."

Jackson said Barcode prefers grass and hay, like horses.

He said whoever took Barcode to the college campus Wednesday morning are lucky they didn't get hurt and didn't hurt the pet zebra.

"I wouldn't get in (the pen) with him," Jackson said, adding that he prefers to communicate with Barcode outside of the fenced area since both he and his wife have been attacked several times over the last decade. "He's a pet, but I never allow anyone to get in the pen with him or get by the pen; nobody should get in his reach because he will jump."

The only one who seems to always get along with Barcode is his pen-mate, Jewel, a miniature donkey that grew up with him.

"They're buddies," Jackson said.

Even though Oxford College officials discovered Barcode - who cost the Jacksons about $2,500 eight years ago - roaming the third-floor hallways of Seney Hall at about 7 a.m. Wednesday, the Jacksons didn't know Barcode was missing until they returned home late Wednesday morning.

Mrs. Jackson said they had been at an appointment in Atlanta until about 11 a.m. When they returned home, they had two missed calls from Newton County Animal Control.

"I thought our dogs got out," she said. "Then we went outside to look for them and saw a note from the Oxford Police Department that said, 'Call me about your zebra.'"

When the Jacksons checked on Barcode, they noticed he was in a different pen from where they had left him, but assumed he somehow escaped. After not being able to reach Animal Control or the Police Department, the Jacksons headed over to Oxford College for lunch in the dining hall, like they do most days.

Mrs. Jackson said they overheard a student talking on her cell phone about a zebra, and then a cafeteria attendant asked if their zebra was the one in Seney Hall earlier that morning.

"I said, 'Oh my gosh,'" she recalled.

Eventually, the Jacksons talked to Animal Control and the police about what happened.

"We didn't have anything to do with it," Mrs. Jackson said, adding that they'd had trouble with students trespassing before.

As a result of the theft and publicity, the couple had to talk to the Department of Natural Resources, since their license to keep the zebra had expired.

"We're doing everything we can to get in compliance," said Mrs. Jackson.

She also owns another zebra, Jazz, a 3-year-old female. She said she hopes to begin breeding Jazz with Barcode in a few days.

The Jacksons said they plan to press charges against the perpetrators if the school finds out who did it.

"Although it's a nice little prank they pulled, and I'm sure it will go down in history ... he was stolen," Mrs. Jackson said. "If they do this and get away with this, somebody is going to do this again. I don't want somebody taking my animal that I love; it's like most people's children."

The college is investigating the matter.

"A zebra looking out the third floor windows of Seney Hall is admittedly funny," said Oxford College Dean Steve Bowen in an e-mailed statement to the press. "But viewed more carefully, it is an indefensible theft of personal property that put an animal at risk of serious injury, cost dozens of dedicated Oxford staff a morning's productive work and added unnecessary costs that will have to be covered by budgets that otherwise would have supported the college mission. If those responsible are identified, they will be at risk of criminal prosecution, and the college will take disciplinary action. The college does not condone theft, reckless endangerment of animals or vandalism to college property."

Bowen said the doors to the hallways on the second and third floors were fastened shut, and the inside of the elevator was vandalized and later repaired.

"No food or water was left for the animal. (Barcode) did eat part of a college catalog," the dean said in the statement. "A preliminary estimate is that the cost (of damages) will be less than $10,000."