By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 11/14/2019
Page Views: 428
Caged people care for caged animals. It's a match made in prison reform heaven.

The Monroe County Sheriff's Animal Farm, open just twice a month, is a petting zoo especially designed for children and adults of all ages. Monroe County contains all the keys from Largo to West. The Monroe County Sheriff's complex is located on Stock Island (once called Cow Key), the first key up from Key West. 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 that 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.