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After I saw how the [previous] farmer interacted with the inmates, and that it was a safe environment, I thought, ‘Yeah, I could do this.’” On Selander’s first day there were 25 animals roaming around.
Most of them farm animals of the petting-zoo variety.
I always laugh, they didn’t invite me, they invited Mo, I’m just his roadie, said Selander says of his appearances up and down the Keys.
Twice a month the farm invites the public in to fawn over the animals.
It’s a place where a miniature horse named “Bam Bam” grazes his days away on a pasture, as men in orange jumpsuits muck stalls and make sure water dishes are brimming. “I figured it’d be just a couple of pigs, maybe,” he said.
“I didn’t know there was gonna be snakes and lizards and alligators and everything else.” Twenty-one years ago, out on the busy road that runs alongside the jail, a flock of ducks was losing its battle with traffic.
They put in a pond, and set up a few picnic tables where the sheriff deputies took breaks. As word spread through what locals call the “coconut telegraph” — the unofficial gossip tree that spans the Florida Keys — the jail’s animal population began to increase and diversify.
By his own admission, he was not surprised to be there. In the interim he signed up to be a trustee at the jail and landed the highly coveted job of working on the farm.
For the past two decades abandoned, abused, confiscated and donated animals from around the country have found refugee behind razor wire at the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Stock Island Detention Center.
It’s not unusual for bimonthly Sunday open houses to draw in around 200 people.
Many of them are greeted by Mo the sloth, who is regularly an ornament cradled in Selander’s arms as guests arrive.