About the Farm

2012 Animal Farm Holiday Schedule

See photos from the 2010 Christmas event at the Animal Farm!


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.

Cavies are monogamous for life and females will bear 1 to 3 young at a time, after a gestation of about 3 months. The pair at the farm recently produced a baby, born in November of last year. Cavies have a life span of up to 4 to 5 years in the wild, and 5 to 10 years in captivity. When raised from birth, they can be very social with humans.
 
An albino Python at the farm was taken several years ago from a man who came to the Keys in a station wagon loaded with animals who planned to make money selling tourists pictures with the animals. The Sheriff's Office seized all of his animals from him due to their poor condition and the inadequate care he was giving them. The python initially had a fungal infection which caused his skin to peel, but after treatment at the farm, he is healthy and beautiful.
 
The farm and it's operations are overseen by a paid employee - currently Farmer Jeanne Selander - who manages the animal park, and oversees the maintenance of the Detention Center and Sheriff's Office Headquarters grounds. Farmer Selander herself is a relatively new addition to the farm. She was hired in September after the previous farmer moved on to the greener pastures of a horse farm in South Carolina. Selander hails from Charleston, South Carolina. She moved to the Keys in 1998 to take the job of Assistant Curator at the Key West Aquarium. She has a B.A. in Biology from the College of Charleston. She says she came here for the job - and the weather. She is a dive instructor and loves to dive the waters of the Keys in her spare time.
 
She has many plans for the Animal Farm and has already made her mark, organizing, cleaning and straightening; she has begun making educational signs for each of the animal's habitats and is in the process of building new fencing to create a grazing area for the larger animals.
 
"There is so much to do. There's just not enough time," said Selander. 'I just love working with the animals," she added.
 
The Sheriff's Office Animal Farm features all sorts of animals, both the traditional farm animals like horses, ponies, chickens, pigs, goats and rabbits as well as exotic animals like an albino python, peacocks, many tropical birds, a Llama, Patagonian Cavies and African Spurred Tortoises. Many of the animals have come from abusive or neglectful homes, or have been donated by people who simply cannot care for them any longer. Farmer Selander oversees a crew of inmates from the detention center.  The animals at the park are cared for primarily by Detention Center inmates, who also benefit from the experience. They receive formal training in some aspects of animal husbandry which they may be able to use once they are released from the facility. At the very least, they learn to work closely with many creatures in need of the compassion and caring of a human being - an experience which cannot help but be a positive factor in their lives.
 
The farm is normally open to the public, free of charge, on the second and fourth Sunday of every month from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Farmer Jeanne Selander is also happy to offer scheduled tours to groups who call ahead. She can be reached at 305-293-7300 or via email at jselander@keysso.net. The Children's Animal Farm is located at the Stock Island Detention Center, just off of College Road. Visitors to the park are able to observe the animals up close, and in some cases, touch them . The park offers one of the only opportunities for Keys children to interact with animals they wouldn't normally have the opportunity to experience in their day to day lives. 

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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