Officials confiscate 2 zebras
DNR says owners failed to get proper permits

OXFORD - A zebra named Barcode that made national headlines when he became part of a prank at Oxford College earlier this year has been confiscated from his owners by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division.

Barcode and another zebra, a 3-year-old female named Jazz, were seized after their owners, Curtis and Sherry Jackson, failed to obtain proper permits to house wild animals, according to a WRD official.

The Jackson's declined to comment for this story.

The zebras have been shipped to a zoo in the Midwest, said Todd Nims, a wildlife biologist who supervises the WRD's Special Permit Unit.

"We try to find a licensed facility that is inspected frequently to make sure we're sending them somewhere that is doing the right thing and treating the animals correctly," Nims said.

In April, staff at Oxford College discovered Barcode roaming the third floor of Seney Hall, presumably put there by students pulling an end-of-the-school-year prank.

The highly publicized practical joke drew the attention of the DNR, whose officers soon discovered the animals were not permitted.

The DNR commissioner issued an administrative order to confiscate the animals. The Jackson's appealed, but in October, the order was upheld by an administrative law judge in Atlanta.

The couple had another opportunity to appeal, this time to Newton County Superior Court within 30 days, but elected not to, according to Nims. The zebras were seized on Dec. 12.

Nims said the Jacksons have had ample opportunity to get the proper permitting: The couple was first issued a warning for unlawful possession of a zebra in 1998.

They were granted a wild animal license in September 1999, but failed to renew the following year as required by law. Nims said at least one renewal reminder was sent to the couple.

Due to personnel changes and other issues, the case "slipped through the cracks," and was all but forgotten during the following eight years, Nims said.

In 2005, the Jacksons bought another zebra, a female, from Kentucky. Sherry Jackson told the Citizen earlier this year that she planned to breed the animals. They never applied for a permit for the second zebra, Nims said.

"They knew they had to have a license. They knew how to contact us. The phone number hasn't changed in that time. The address hasn't changed in that time. It's their responsibility to make sure their licenses stay up-to-date," he said.

The Jacksons considered the zebras pets, which is not an approved use for exotic animals in Georgia.

Exotic animals are only permitted for retail or wholesale purposes between licensed businesses or for public exhibition, Nims said. Initially, the Jacksons stated in their application that they planned to breed their zebra to create and sell zdonks, half-zebra, half-donkeys which are a bit of a hot commodity, though that apparently never occurred, Nims said.

Regulation of exotic animals is necessary to prevent introduction of disease or pests and harmful competition for wildlife and natural resources and, most importantly, to protect human safety, he said.

Zebras in particular can be very aggressive and dangerous, and are not, as they are often portrayed in movies or cartoons, just "striped horses," he said.

"They evolved around things that would eat them, so their defense mechanism is to bite and kick and when they bite and kick, they bite and kick very hard," he said.

In fact, Sherry Jackson testified in court that one of the zebras injured her and she required hospitalization, he said.

"Georgia law is fairly restrictive. If it's not a run-of-the-mill cat, dog, horse, cow or pig, it's going to require a license," Nims said.

Even some smaller animals, like ferrets, which are allowed as pets, must meet certain requirements, such as having rabies shots and being spayed or neutered.

"If anybody is contemplating getting some type of unusual animal, they should give us a call and make sure the animal is not something that is prohibited as a pet in Georgia," he said.

For inquiries or more information, call 770-761-3044.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.