CHARLOTTE -- A Charlotte woman is looking for answers after animal control told her she has to get rid of her pet emu.
She's had the bird legally for nearly a decade, but now, she says she has 30 days to get it off her property.
"She's like a dog to me, she's like a dog,” Shellie Pincay said.
But her neighbors think the emu, Kayala, is a nuisance.
"It's bound to cause environmental problems, health problems,” neighbor Willie Williams said.
Williams says rats are drawn to the neighborhood by the emu's food. He's called animal control several times to complain.
"They usually eat all of their food, and there's usually none left to spill over,” Pincay said.
She says the emu is harmless, it rarely makes noise and it never gets out of the yard.
"This bird is in three or four six-foot fences. She can't fly. All she can do is run,” Pincay said.
That's why she says she was shocked when an animal control officer showed up at her door, saying she had to get rid of her pet.
Pincay says the bird is now considered an exotic animal, which is forbidden by city code.
But for years, she received permit after permit to legally keep the emu as livestock.
"I don't know what's changed, why all of sudden I can't have her,” Pincay said.
The emu was always considered an exotic animal up until a couple of decades ago when its meat became more popular.
Now, according to the owner of an emu farm, it can fall under both categories.
"If you use them for livestock purposes, then yeah, it's livestock. But if it's in a zoo, then it would be considered an exotic animal,” said Rosie Jones, owner of Oakridge Farm in Gastonia.
Pincay's neighbor says he's relieved animal control is acting on his complaints.
"The problems will be solved once that animal is removed from that particular property,” Williams said.
But Pincay says she won't back down.
"If I had to, I would go to jail,” she said.
News 14 reached out to animal control, but the officers in charge of this case weren't available to comment.