The Monroe County Sheriff's Office Children's Animal Farm is located on the grounds of the Monroe County Sheriff's Office Stock Island Detention Center, at 5501 College Road in Key West. (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.
The Sheriff's Office Animal Farm features all sorts of animals, both the traditional farm animals like miniature horses, Angus the steer, chickens, pigs, goats and rabbits as well as exotic animals like Mo the Sloth, one Kinkajou, Kelsey the Lemur, alpacas (Snowflake, Arabella, Lilo and Stitch), an albino python, peacocks and many tropical birds. 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 who care for the animals and 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 and it's operations are overseen by a paid employee - currently Farmer Jeanne Selander - who manages the animal park. 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.
Farmer Jeanne has set up a wishlist on Amazon of items needed by the farm or the animals. If you would like to donate an item, please click here.
Farmer Jeanne also maintains a Facebook page dedicated to the Farm. Please visit it for the latest news and upcoming events!