If you live in Omaha and have been holding out hope that someday you, too, could have a tiny, buggy-eyed marsupial leaping around your living room or add a spinier version of a guinea pig to your family, take note.
Next week, the Omaha City Council will see a proposal to add two new animals to the city's list of approved pets. Along with dogs, cats, domestic rabbits, mini-pigs, birds and non-venomous lizards, among others, Omahans could soon be able to license sugar gliders and hedgehogs.
It's big news for hedgehog enthusiasts like Nicholas Goulette, who was making plans to purchase one of the prickly mammals when he discovered that Omaha was a bit of a hedgehog desert.
“They're exotic, cute little things, and they're pretty hardy animals as long as you know how to take care of them,” he said.
Goulette was poking around on a hedgehog breeder's website when he noticed a mention of hedgehogs being banned in the city.
It's not a unique situation. Hedgehogs are outlawed in the entire state of California, for example, because of concerns about the non-native animals finding their way into the wild and becoming an invasive species.
But Goulette was perplexed, partly because hedgehogs are allowed in the rest of Nebraska and partly because nobody at the city or the county seemed to be able to find a definitive rule about keeping the animal as a pet.
Eventually, he called council President Pete Festersen, who made some calls of his own and brought the issue to the council's Public Safety Committee.
“We contacted the Humane Society on (Goulette's) behalf, and they were aware of it and thought it would be a good idea,” Festersen said.
It's not clear how sugar gliders ended up on the list.
But Pam Wiese, a spokeswoman for the Nebraska Humane Society, said there are definitely some of the small, Australian critters already in the Omaha area. Like the hedgehog, they're legal in Sarpy County and other surrounding communities. From time to time, they show up at the Humane Society — on Friday, the shelter had two.
She said it's likely that sugar gliders were kept off the pet list because of their unique needs.
The animals have a membrane stretching from their arms to their feet, which they extend to leap — and almost fly — from tree to tree. That means they need the kind of space that many city dwellers can't provide.
But Wiese said sugar gliders seem to be growing in popularity as a pet, so officials may be interested in getting them licensed if they're already going to be in Omaha homes.
Hedgehogs, meanwhile, turn up only occasionally at the shelter.
But Sarah Hand, a hedgehog breeder in Fremont, said the animal will catch on in Omaha in a big way. She said they usually cost somewhere between $150 and $300, depending on the animal's sex and color.
Albino hedgehogs are typically the least expensive. Those with black eyes and a black face are particularly popular at the moment.
“Everybody's raving over the platinum color,” Hand said.