Michigan athletes caught the attention of animal rights group PETA over the handling of a baby male wallaby named Samson.
The story of the wallaby gets complicated, so try to stay with us. The wallaby started appearing on social media platforms from Michigan football players in late June.
Quarterback Shane Morris shared an Instagram photo of receiver Jack Wangler holding the animal on June 26. The Instagram photo he posted has since been deleted by Wangler. Running back Wyatt Shallman also posted a picture on Instagram of him holding the animal.
A wallaby, by the way, is a smaller member of the kangaroo family. It is native to Australia and New Guinea.
Wangler told MLive.com that the animal "belonged to one of our friends." That would turn out to be Michigan hockey player Cutler Martin.
Martin posted a listing on the website exoticanimalsforsale.net to try to sell the animal. The photo used for the listing includes a Michigan blanket and says the location is in East Lansing. The name on the listing is Trevor, but the phone number for the listing leads to someone named Cutler.
PETA had been keeping an eye on the situation since the social media postings and was concerned about the safety of the animal. Brittany Peet, the PETA Foundation deputy director of captive animal law enforcement, is the person who became involved in the situation. Peet called the number listed on the website and here's what happened, via MLive.
"When Peet called the number a second time, it went to a voicemail machine Peet says identified the owner of the phone as Cutler Martin. That voicemail has since been disabled and replaced with a generic greeting. Peet said Martin insisted his name was trevor and told her his friends had been playing a joke on him."
Eventually, Martin called Peet back and identified himself. He said he'd be willing to sell the animal, but in order to do that, he needed an Animal Welfare Act license from the Department of Agriculture. If not, selling the animal would be illegal.
PETA did offer a deal to Martin. Peet would give him $500 in exchange for surrendering the wallaby to the Detroit Zoo. However, Martin wanted more money for the animal and ended up not doing the deal.
After communicating with Peet and another PETA member over a few days, Martin decided to give the wallaby to the original breeder, Jan Holstege.
"[Samson] was returned in excellent condition," Holstege said to MLive. "He's a good boy, very well socialized and well loved. It was very hard for them to bring him back."
On Wednesday, Peet sent a message to Michigan about what was going on. On Friday, they received the following statement from Michigan.
"The student no longer has possession of the animal and it has been turned over to a responsible and appropriate adult."
This statement, and the current possession of the wallaby, doesn't sit well with Peet.
"This student and the school had the opportunity to step up and set a great example for all U of M sports fans by allowing this wallaby to spend the rest of his life in a naturalistic habitat with other animals at the Detroit Zoo," Peet said, via the Detroit News. "Now the wallaby has apparently been sent back to the irresponsible breeder who allowed a college athlete to take home a baby wallaby in the first place."
According to MLive, PETA is still monitoring the situation and its options. The group has not contacted law enforcement.