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About the Animal Farm
|Former Sheriff Rick Roth and Farmer Jeanne Selander watch a pair of African spurred tortoises.|
The Children's Animal Park is open the second and fourth Sunday of each month from 1 to 3 p.m. Groups may tour by appointment. For more information, call (305)293-7300.
The Monroe County Sheriff's Office Children's Animal Park is located on the grounds of the Monroe County Sheriff's Office Stock Island Detention Center, at 5501 College Road. The Sheriff's Office Headquarters building and a State Department of Juvenile Justice holding facility are also located in the same complex.
The park was started in 1994 in an open area underneath the jail facility. The Stock Island Detention Center was built to withstand a Category Five Hurricane, and is built on stilts, about 11 feet above the ground. Underneath the building is employee parking, and a secure fenced area used for the evacuation of inmates in the case of a fire. It was in this evacuation area, initially a graveled area not used for anything else, that the farm was started.
The farm began as a haven for homeless animals. The first inhabitants were Muscovy ducks and a group of chickens which were plaguing a nearby golf course and were being killed on a regular basis by vehicles traveling on the road leading to the jail. A short time after the chickens and ducks were brought to the area, the SPCA in Miami called and asked if the facility would have space for a blind horse they had found abandoned in their area. Using inmate labor, a pen was created for the horse, who was christened Angel, and the animal farm was born. Since, it has blossomed into a beautiful park, complete with an large aviary, reptile exhibit, rabbit warren, farm animals and other domestic and exotic animal species.
One of the most unusual animals at the farm is an 85 pound African spurred tortoise (he now weighs approximately 100 pounds) named "Albert" , donated by an owner that could no longer handle him. Albert was so large, he would easily force his way out of the fenced yard at his previous home and be found wandering the neighborhood. Albert is now a familiar resident of the farm who has free roam and loves to follow visitors around the compound, begging for treats.
Recently, the Sheriff's Office Children's Animal Park welcomed three more African Spurred Tortoises, bringing the total count of the tortoises at the farm to four. Two of the recent additions came from Colorado where they were found inside a home raided in a drug operation. Local veterinarian Doug Mader, who volunteers his services at the farm, heard about the reptiles and suggested they be sent to the Keys to the Animal Farm.The two Colorado tortoises have been named Sherman (for the World War Two tank he resembles) and Colonel because he took an immediate liking to Colonel Rick Ramsay, second in command of the Sheriff's Office. The third new tortoise, named Melanie, came from a woman on Sugarloaf Key.
Farmer Jeanne Selander says the tortoises are obviously happy to be here at the farm. "They love the
fresh grass," she says, as she watches Sherman tear at the plentiful green tufts in the tortoise and turtle habitat.
The farm also has a family of Patagonian Cavies. Native to South America, they are the second largest rodent in the world. Cavies are fast runners, reaching speeds up to 18 mph, and can jump up to 6 feet high. Adults can grow up to 30 inches in length and weigh about 30 pounds. They are normally active during the day, feeding on grasses and other vegetation.
The farm is supported largely by donations from visitors to the park. Many children visit on field trips, and we also get other types of groups as well.The Monroe County Sheriff's Office Children's Animal Park is open the second and fourth Sunday of each month from 1 to 3 p.m. Groups may tour by appointment. For more information, call (305)293-7300
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