Sugar gliders banned in St. Paul

  • Article by: CHRIS HAVENS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 27, 2007 - 7:18 AM

Sugar gliders are small gliding or (flying) possums native to Australia.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Jm - Star Tribune

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Gwen Hovde is glad she and her sugar gliders live in Minneapolis.

With a half-dozen of the mini marsupials as pets, she would be a sugar glider scofflaw under a new ordinance approved Wednesday by the St. Paul City Council.

On a 6 to 1 vote, council members banned the nocturnal marsupials that hail from the South Pacific and have flaps of skin from wrists to ankles and a bit of a sweet tooth.

Although St. Paul isn’t teeming with the critters, banning their purchase, sale and ownership is a preventive measure, city officials say. The animals wouldn’t do well in this climate, and are high-maintenance, leading the city’s animal control department to fear frustrated owners would abandon their pets.

The ordinance stems from an incident in which a person was selling the animals at a trade show without a license. Animal control employees did research and found that sugar gliders take a lot of maintenance, make a lot of noise and can smell.

“I think they were misinformed about many things when they made their decision,” said Jeff Stein, who with his wife, Terri, breeds sugar gliders in Lino Lakes.

They have a room full of about 34 adult gliders, which sell for prices starting at $200. “They’re harmless little friendly things.”

He said the smell isn’t that bad if you feed them the right foods.

Critters have complex needs

The Australian government doesn’t generally encourage the keeping of sugar gliders as pets because they’re complex, according to an e-mail between St. Paul and Australian officials. The animals require space to jump around, eat specialized diets and constantly mark territory with their scent, the Australian official wrote.

Several states — including Alaska, California and Massachusetts — have banned them.

'I’m not convinced’

There are lots of animals that are hard to take care of, said Council Member Dave Thune. “I question at what point you make a decision to ban a breed,” he said. “I’m not convinced they’re dangerous or a nuisance.

They’re fun and demanding, said Hovde, who has six gliders.

They fit in your hand, are known to sleep in bras and sweatshirt hoods, and some people carry them around in little pouches, she said.

Veterinarian Keith Hedges, of Brighton Veterinary Hospital in New Brighton, said he’s been dealing with sugar gliders for two years.

“I think they’re pretty neat little animals,” he said. “But they’re not for everyone, by any means.”

City Council members agreed, noting that it’s hard to tell in advance whether someone will be a responsible pet owner. And that, they said, is what inspired the ban.

Chris Havens • 651-298-1542
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