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A girl asked if she could keep a unicorn in her yard. LA County gave her a license

Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control posted photos to Instagram of the toy unicorn and custom tag they plan to give to a local first-grader who requested permission to keep one in her yard.
Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control via AP
Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control posted photos to Instagram of the toy unicorn and custom tag they plan to give to a local first-grader who requested permission to keep one in her yard.

Madeline wrote to officials asking for approval to keep a unicorn in her backyard if she could find one. The animal control department agreed — under certain conditions.

Updated December 12, 2022 at 12:46 PM ET

A six-year-old on a quest to keep a unicorn in her backyard figured she'd get the hard part out of the way first — getting permission from animal control.

In mid-November, eager to cut through the red tape, Madeline wrote a letter to the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control with a straightforward request. (The county redacted her last name from the letter on its social media posts.)

"Dear LA County," it reads. "I would like your approval if I can have a unicorn in my backyard if I can find one. Please send me a letter in response."

Director Marcia Mayeda obliged a few weeks later, writing back with good news. The department does in fact license unicorns, she said, under certain conditions.

Those include polishing the unicorn's horn at least once a month with a soft cloth, feeding it watermelon (one of its favorite treats) at least once a week, covering it with only nontoxic and biodegradable sparkles and giving it "regular access to sunlight, moonbeams and rainbows."

Confident that Madeline will meet the five requirements, Mayeda also sent her a "preapproved unicorn license" for her elusive future pet — in the form of a certificate on pink paper with curlicue script, as well as a heart-shaped tag engraved with the words "permanent unicorn license."

And, because unicorns "are indeed very rare to find," the department is also giving Madeline a plush unicorn — wearing the tag, of course — to keep her company during her search, as a token of its appreciation.

"It is always rewarding to hear from young people who thoughtfully consider the requirements of providing a loving home to animals," Mayeda wrote. "I commend your sense of responsible pet ownership to seek permission in advance to keep a unicorn in Los Angeles County."

The Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control said this week that it had granted Madeline's request.
/ AP
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AP
The Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control said this week that it had granted Madeline's request.

Mayeda told the Washington Post that this is the first time the department has received a request for a license for a unicorn — or any mythical creature — in her more than two decades working there.

She said she and her colleagues deal with a lot of "emotionally draining" and "life-and-death" issues on the job, whether that's seeing cases of animal abuse or animals hurting people, or making decisions about having to put down dangerous or sick animals.

So Madeline's letter has considerably brightened their spirits, she said, adding that "everybody was just so touched and charmed and just thrilled with it." They were also impressed with the first-grader for wanting to ask permission in the first place, and doing her research to figure out how to go about that.

Madeline's mother didn't want to discourage her when she asked for a unicorn, so suggested it might come down to getting government approval, Mayeda told The New York Times.

"Madeline said, 'OK,' and she marched off and an hour later she came back and said, 'Will you help me mail this?' " Mayeda said.

While the letter was received and replied to in a matter of weeks, Madeline still hadn't gotten the response as of Friday, since her mom thought the license would be a perfect birthday present for later this month.

She is due to visit the department this week, under the guise of visiting an animal care center to discuss her unicorn license application. Safe to say she's in for a magical surprise.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman
Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.