I've decided to expand this blog to include some personal posts.  Not every post will focus on ecothriftiness, but I'll try to keep any new info I learn circulating through this blog.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fwd: Serious concerns regarding 'Fields of Grace' Petting Farm

I just wanted to let you guys know that I just sent this out.  Wish me luck!

Begin forwarded message:
From: Hannah W 
Date: July 30, 2008 3:42:03 PM EDT
Subject: Serious concerns regarding 'Fields of Grace' Petting Farm

To whom this may concern:

I have spoken to representatives from the Carter County Mayor's Office, the Carter County Health Department, made unsuccessful attempts to reach Carter County Animal Control (as I am told there is no officer at this time), spoke to Dr. Brunkhorst at the USDA Animal Care office in Nashville, TN, and have spoken to the USDA APHIS representative for the East US region in Raleigh, North Carolina.  All of the individuals I spoke to at the county government level were very helpful, but unsure of who would have jurisdiction over this matter.

I and several other mothers (including a veterinarian) took our toddlers to "Fields of Grace" petting farm near Elizabethton, TN after reading a positive article about it in the Johnson City Press online newspaper (dated 5-07-2008).  Another article in the Elizabethton Star was dated Sept. 18, 2005.

Unfortunately, as we toured the "farm," we all became very concerned for both the health and safety of the children visiting and of the animals exhibited there.

The owner claimed that the animals were trained for "therapeutic" service, and assured us that all were safe to pet.  However, the USDA representative stated that there was no license for this "farm," and it was not registered with the agency.

As I have many complaints, I felt a bulleted list would be most effective in relaying the cruel, unsanitary, and unregulated conditions of the "farm."  
  • The animals at this farm appeared undernourished, in horrid conditions, and some exhibited signs of serious illness per the opinion of a veterinarian.
  • Many of the animals were housed in a large barn that had approximately 6 inches of soiled hay underfoot.  Most were in rusty and dirty cages with barely enough room to move.  Most were without clean water, and none had food.  When our children began to feed the animals from the feed bags we'd purchased, we were all concerned that the animals appeared frantic and trampled each other to reach the food.
  • Most of the pens and cages for the animals were filthy, too small, dark, and appeared to be of an improper function for the animal inside.  For instance, she had a large chicken in a small birdcage, several chickens in a cage barely big enough for a hamster, and several pigs in large wooden boxes with little ventilation.  One chicken was housed in an old child's playpen with old window screens secured by wood planks on top.  Several Guinea pigs were in a small hamster cage, and one was in a bird cage turned on its side.   
  • Most of the chickens on the property were missing some or all their feathers on their backs, and some were missing feathers on their necks and sides.  Our veterinarian acquaintance saw open sores on the chickens.
  • The veterinarian stated that a pig (one which the owner encouraged our children to pet), had a skin disease.
  • Our children were encouraged to walk through stalls and pens that appeared to rarely have been cleaned.  Our children were encouraged to pet diseased animals, and we did our best to decline those opportunities.  
  • The owner appeared to have no education or concern regarding the proper care and maintenance of these animals, how to ensure safety of the public, and how to avoid spreading disease.
  • At one point, she asked us to place our children into an above ground swimming pool that contained many rabbits (some caked in feces), rabbit feces, and many rusted or dirty toys.  Of course, we declined.  The newspaper article states, "One popular attraction is the rabbit garden, where kids can sit in a pen with rabbits hopping about."
  • During this trip, the children were encouraged to hand feed animals one after the other, and there were no hand-washing stations available.  Luckily, I had brought hand sanitizer with me.  
  • Several large dogs were in pens near the petting area, and one in particular seemed very aggressive.  The dog pens smelled strongly of feces and urine.
  • From my non-expert reading of the USDA regulations for Animal Exhibitions, Ms. Pilkington is breaking most if not all of them.

Certainly, we did our best to protect our 2 year-old children the best we could once we were in the maze of the "farm."  This "farm" appears to be marketed to small children as the newspaper article states, "Fields of Grace has just opened, and the first buses to arrive have been from Head Start and special education programs, but [the owner] sees her audience as ranging from preschool to youth, with an emphasis on church youth programs."  Obviously we were concerned for the health and safety of the animals.  More importantly, however, we felt that this woman should not be allowed to market this "farm" as a "storybook environment," as she was quoted in the newspaper.

I am greatly concerned that this is a hazard to these animals and to the general health and welfare of the community as it is advertised as a safe place for children to interact with animals.  In my opinion, it is a matter of time before a small child contracts salmonella, TB, or E. coli from the soiled environment and animals which are known to spread these and other diseases.  

I will be sending this email to the USDA offices, the Carter County governmental agencies, and the newspaper that wrote glowing articles.  Please keep me informed as to the progress of any investigation that may be begun by my concern.  The owner of this "farm" is a woman who appears to be very well-intentioned, but is not running this for-profit business in a healthy way.

Hannah W

Information on Fields of Grace:
"Fields of Grace" is located at:
2615 HIGHWAY 91
ELIZABETHTON TN  37643-6922 

Articles on the Petting Farm:
Fields of Grace Petting Zoo article, "It's a ZOO! - Fields of Grace Petting Farm offers fun for kids in a storybook setting" by By James Brooks, Press Staff Writer, Johnson City Press

"'Fields of Grace' offers kids simplicity, play with animals"
By Bryan Stevens, Elizabethton Star Staff


Janice said...

Once again another many victims of the East TN newspaper reporting. The Johnson City Press is sort of like a comic book in my opinion and don't believe a word I read.

Hannah said...

Can you believe I sent that email to the 2 newspaper staff reporters on July 30th and have yet to get a response? Unbelievable!

Jacob's Mom 2B said...

Wow. This is absolutely disgusting. I have never heard of such a place and would NEVER take Jacob there. Ewe - those poor animals need to be removed. Somebody should Brookinate that nasty woman... Sounds like you are trying, but unfortunately having no luck. Seriously, this place should be shut down and the animals need to go to safe places.

Hannah said...

I included a small update on a more recent posting. I'll update more as I find out more.