Jail isn’t exactly a place you want to visit, but the Stock Island Detention Center in Florida has turned its facility into a rehabilitation center for both people and animals as it doubles as a sanctuary for abused, neglected, or confiscated exotic pets and farm animals.
The sanctuary was first established in 1994,as a refuge for injured ducks who were regularly hit by passing cars. The small sanctuary was located below the jail, which sits 11-feet above the ground as per hurricane safety regulations. When word spread that the jail was taking in animals in need, it quickly became a haven for all sorts of species including wild animals that have been sold into the exotic animal trade. One of the farm’s most famous residents is Mo, an adorable sloth whose become the unofficial mascot of Stock Island Detention Center.
The facility is also home to an alligator who was kept as a pet before his guardians no longer wanted to care for him, an abandoned tortoise, a half-blind miniature horse and more than 150 other animals, including farm animals. Five of the 596 prisoners (all non-violent offenders), as well as a veterinarian, work with the animals, caring for their needs
Jeanne Selander, who has a background in marine biology, is the caretaker for the facility. She said that for the inmates, the animal care is a way to make daily breaks from life in jail to feed, clean, and build the animals’ trust. For the animals, it’s a forever home, where they will no longer be mistreated.
Farmer Jeanne, as she is nicknamed, teaches visitors about the importance of not keeping wild animals as pets with the help of the jail’s resident sloth.
She said that while the farm is open to the public twice a month, the animals are not forced to interact with people. “Some of them love attention and will come up to people, others don’t and no one is allowed close to them,” she told Care2.
A huge part of the sanctuary’s mission in showing the public the animals is to teach families, including children, that wild animals are not pets, no matter how cute they are. Too often misguided owners who purchase exotic pets realize they’re in over their heads and the animals end up neglected or abandoned, like those at Stock Island.
If you would like to help contribute to this incredible sanctuary that is helping both humans and animals, click here.
Check out the sanctuary in action below.
Image source: Marathon Florida/YouTube