Four-year-old Zoe does not have to do much to attract attention when she stands in the front yard of her Mesa home.
Her black-and-white stripes catch the eyes of children walking down her street and drivers passing through the Esquire Estates Neighborhood. Some bring carrots. Others just stop and stare.
But there’s a simple reason for everyone’s curiosity: It’s rare to catch a glimpse of a real zebra living in Mesa.
It was no accident that Zoe’s owners, Debbie Crews Ketterling and her husband, Corky, built a fencing structure that would let Zoe roam their front yard. Their philosophy is that animals should be shared to bring joy to everyone.
That’s also why they’ve decided to keep the two minihorses, the wallaby, the bunnies, the turtle, the two pygmy goats and the potbelly pig in the front yard as well.
“Who owns them? I don’t think we own them exclusively,” Corky Ketterling said. “We provide most of the care for them, but the benefit of them and the joy of having them isn’t our exclusive right, either.”
As a child, Debbie’s mother would never let her have pets. Now, she has close to 30 of them, making her menagerie one of the most diverse in Mesa.
Behind her house, she also has two monkeys, two horses, a tortoise, dogs and cats. In addition, her sheep, llamas and other horses are dispersed in yards throughout the neighborhood.
Her favorite pet is a pigtail macaque money named Mia, whose cage connects between the backyard and the inside of Crews Ketterling’s bedroom. Through her cage, Mia gives her owner kisses, and reaches out to grab anything that shines.
“She loves your jewelry. She loves your glasses,” she said. “If she takes it, you won’t get it back.”
She and her husband consider the animals family. All were present last year for the couple’s May 5 wedding in the backyard.
While there is no law prohibiting people from having zebras or wallabies on their property in Mesa, Crews Ketterling’s many pets are a sore spot for some neighbors.
The first complaint came in 2003, when Mesa animal control cited her for having too many animals in the yard, said Diane Brady, animal control supervisor.
Then in 2005, complaints were filed again for having too many animals and also failure to clean up manure. At the time, there were over 20 animals in the yard.
Except for monkeys and livestock, there are few restrictions on the number of animals a person can have in Mesa. There is no limit on the number of dogs a person can have, so long as they do not violate other ordinances.
For livestock, however, the ordinance says only two animals, such as horses or cows, can reside on one acre. For each additional animal, a person must have another halfacre of property. Crews Ketterling and her husband have about one acre, so the police told them most of the camels, sheep and horses had to go. They were all considered livestock.
The pygmy goats, potbelly pig and wallabies were classified as exotic animals, so they could stay since there are no restrictions.
But the presence of the zebra remained in question. Did it count as livestock, or was it exotic?
To this day, it’s not really been defined in the city code, although police said they consider a zebra to be livestock and the family says it’s exotic. So Zoe has stayed put.
Crews Ketterling didn’t always have such unique animals, but her research at Arizona State University eventually led her to them.
She works as a sports psychologist, teaching both university and pro golfers psychological techniques that can improve their game. Her studies in the realm of psychology eventually peaked her interest in equestrian therapy, or the use of horses for healing.