An Easter egg hunt for children was staged Sunday at a detention center in the Florida Keys, where the eggs were hidden by inmate workers who also care for rescued animals.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Animal Farm was the site for the annual Easter party. The event attracted more than 1,100 kids, parents and grandparents. The kids hunted for more than 9,000 plastic eggs hidden by the inmate workers.
The farm, located on the grounds of the detention center near Key West, is a refuge for more than 150 domestic and exotic animals that were either abandoned, confiscated or donated. They are cared for by a contingent of the detention center’s inmate workers who are screened and classified as being safe to work outside the detention center and interact with the public.
The only clues revealing the unique jail setting are the circular barbed wire on top of 15-foot fences and the orange detention uniforms worn by the inmates.
“This is also inmate therapy,” said Keys Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “It really helps our inmates to come out here to work with animals; to adjust to taking care of something, being responsible for something and being accountable.”
The animals include Mo the sloth; several African spurred tortoises; an albino Burmese python; an emu named Kramer; Wilbur the pig; Angus the cow; four alpacas; a family of Patagonian cavies and an albino hedgehog as well as tropical birds, ferrets, miniature horses, rabbits, goats and other species.
Ramsay said the real pleasure is to provide Keys children opportunities to see animals they have never seen before, especially during the Easter celebration.
“You know they (the kids) have the best time,” Ramsay said. “In fact, what we see is when they have to leave, they have to put the bunny down (and) they start crying because they want to take the bunny rabbit home.”
The animal farm is managed by sheriff’s office staffer Jeanne Selander who is paid from a fund financed in part to promote inmates’ welfare. There are also private donations, but no public money is used and public admission to the farm, that opens for two hours the second and fourth Sundays of each month, is free.