Newcastle gets resident zebra
Brett Lawton has brought a horse of a different color to Placer County.
If you drive down Geraldson Road in Newcastle long enough past the rolling hills of a few ranches and your average quarter horse here and there, you'll eventually pass Lawton's house if you look left long enough.
If you look extra hard, you might get a good look at Lawton's birthday present to his daughter, Brettany, who was surprised to walk into her backyard and see a zebra last week.
Brettany's 10th birthday isn't until Monday, but that didn't stop her dad from going through the measures of tracking down and then purchasing Arumbra, as Brettany affectionately calls her new pet.
"I felt really cool because no one else would get a zebra for their birthday and I felt really excited and really special that my dad got me a zebra because no one else has one and my friends didn't believe me or anything," Brettany said.
Ever since Arumbra arrived with his friend, Donkey, the half-mini-horse half-donkey, the pair have had some adjusting to do as they snack on a diet that isn't too different from a horse.
"He's getting more and more comfortable," Lawton said. "The first couple of days they had no idea what was going on and Donkey was fine, but the zebra wouldn't let anyone get close to him."
Since then, Arumbra, who is around five years old, and Donkey, who is around eight, have settled into the half acre Lawton has fenced for the two.
Lawton said he had to make plenty of phone calls and sent pictures to prove he had the room for a zebra when he was making arrangements with the ranch Arumbra came from. A worker with the ranch drove Arumbra and Donkey 16 hours from near Riverside to their new home.
One of the biggest requirements was that the pair stayed together. The total price for both came to $10,000.
The idea came from a conversation between Lawton and a few of his friends about what to get Brettany for her upcoming "Decade Party." No one thought he would actually go through with it.
"When someone says I won't do something I'll usually do it, it's just my nature," Lawton said.
One person is particularly pleased with the way this dare turned out.
"I'm really glad they said that because now I have a zebra," Brettany said.
Lawton also said when he looked into whether or not he would need a permit under state law to own a zebra nothing came up.
"It's just unique. It's not anything dangerous," he said.
A spokesman for the state Department of Fish and Game said owning a zebra in the department's eyes is no different than owning a horse.
For now, Arumbra and Donkey are confined to their half acre, but Lawton hopes to let the two roam around his property, which is fenced. He said Arumbra's current situation is much better from his previous home in Miami, which he had to be rescued from.
He's also prepared for any attempted escapes.
"That's why I have my lasso right there," Lawton said.
That's why the ranch worker made sure to check how much room Arumbra would have before she sold him to Lawton.
"I'm sure she deals with some interesting individuals," Lawton said. "I could tell she was leery of that because sometimes people buy stuff and don't realize they have to take care of it."
Prior to his time in Miami, Arumbra was also featured in an advertisement for a cigar company and later a vodka company. He has also been in a few movies, according to Lawton.
Now, he's giving a little girl the best birthday ever.
Arumbra is only part of Brettany's birthday package, though. She's also headed to Disneyland.
"I thought I was sleeping or something because I never thought I would get a zebra, but I did, so it was really cool. He talked about getting a giraffe for a little while but I knew that was never going to happen, but then I got a zebra."