Animals are being “starved and neglected” at Babby Farms, according to several former employees, and they have started a petition and a social media campaign to expose the animal mistreatment they say is occurring at the Idaho roadside zoo.
Babby Farms is located in Caldwell, ID. The facility has a mission of providing children and adults with disabilities “the opportunity to experience the joy of interacting with a wide range of animals,” according to their website. The general public is also allowed to visit Babby Farms for a fee. The majority of the animals at the facility are “hand-raised” for petting interactions, the Babby Farms website notes.
Roadside Zoo News spoke with several former Babby Farms employees who shared concerns about the care and treatment of the animals.
Allison Lizaso worked at Babby Farms from 2019-2021.
“Besides management's incompetence, I witnessed multiple cases of animal mistreatment,” Lizaso said.
Gabrielle Derrey worked at Babby Farms during the summer of 2021.
“During my employment, I witnessed animal mistreatment to the extreme,” Derrey said. “Many animals died and management has done nothing to mitigate this cruelty.”
From small, filthy cages, to a lack of enrichment, to animals dying of treatable medical conditions, the allegations against Babby Farms are stacking up.
According to former employees:
In 2019, two blue and gold macaws named Blu and Rio and a kookaburra named Chuckles were moved outside and all three died shortly after. Former employees suspect the animals were suffocated by gnats.
In the summer of 2019, a sloth named Flash died.
In the winter of 2019, two otters named Sushi and Saki died.
In the winter of 2019, a sika deer passed away.
In the spring of 2020, several baby emus were separated from their mother and placed into a room. They died shortly after. It is suspected they were being fed an inadequate diet.
In June 2020, an otter name Shashimi died.
In the summer of 2020, two baby otters named Ying and Yang arrived at Babby Farms and died a few weeks later. The former employees suspect the baby otters died due to stress from being forced into pay-to-play otter encounters.
In the summer of 2020, a bettong named Shela died. (A bettong is a species of marsupial.)
In the summer of 2020, a sika deer passed away.
In 2020, three adult otters and a newborn otter were transported to Babby farms and one of the adult otters was killed by the other otters during transport. The surviving adult otters were named Ying and Yang.
In 2020, the adult otter named Ying that had recently arrived at Babby Farms, and her baby, both died. Employees say the remaining otter, Yang, is still alive but kept in terrible conditions.
Between late 2020 and early 2021 the following animals passed away: An African porcupine named Pine, a llama named Boomer, a llama named Chewy, a spotted leopard and a cavy.
In January 2021, a spider monkey injured his tail but the monkey was left without treatment until the next morning. The monkey had to have stitches for the injury. The spider monkey is also obese but Babby Farms has taken no steps to change his diet to address the issue.
In January 2021, an alpaca was found outside in the freezing rain and the animal couldn’t get up. It is unclear how long the alpaca was out in the freezing rain but the animal had to be euthanized later that morning.
On January 3, 2021, a caracal broke its toe, possibly from getting tangled in a blanket. The caracal has since recovered but Babby Farms has taken no precautions to prevent this injury from happening again.
In February 2021, a Patagonian cavy developed an infection that turned into an abscess. The abscess continued to grow for a week before staff noticed. The cavy’s enclosure had not been cleaned for at least ten days prior to the development of the abscess and former employees suspect the bacteria in the enclosure may have contributed to the abscess.
In April 2021, a female goat developed an upper respiratory infection (URI). The goat was treated for the URI but the zoo staff consistently forgot to administer the medication and the goat ultimately died.
In April 2021, a kangaroo caught one of the calluses of his leg on something and tore it off. The veterinarian gave the kangaroo stitches but they did not hold. Employees were told to wrap and dress the kangaroo’s leg every day but it would often be skipped which may have caused a delay in the kangaroo’s recovery.
In May 2021, a mini horse named Elsa died due to sand colic.
In May 2021, a mini horse named Pumpkin was euthanized after she lost a significant amount of weight.
On May 22, 2021, a baby binturong named Bobay died. The facility had only had the animal for one month before it died.
In the summer of 2021, a baby goat escaped from its enclosure and was crushed to death by a zebra horse hybrid called a zorse.
In June 2021, five lambs died. In mid-June, one of the deceased lambs tested positive for E. coli, a bacterial infection.
In June 2021, a coatimundi developed a skin infection that was not treatable. The coatimundi was euthanized after losing about 5 lbs. in two weeks.
On June 3, 2021, a deer became wrapped up in some chains used to lock a gate which caused a wound on the deer’s neck. No treatment was given to the deer and employees were told to just monitor the wound.
In August 2021, a male coatimundi passed away. The coatimundi was bonded with another coatimundi that he shared an enclosure with. Babby farms has not taken steps to add enrichment for the surviving coatimundi.
In August 2021, a lemur began self mutilating due to lack of enrichment.
In October 2021, a zebra named Zeus died. Former employees found recent photographs of Zeus that indicate he had been losing weight. They speculate Zeus may have passed away due to neglect.
The former employees allege that other animals have died at the facility including a baby owl, several zebras, a lemur, a sloth, a bush baby, rabbits, goats, sheep, guinea pigs, a binturong, piglets, kangaroos and wallabies.
The animals at Babby Farms frequently test positive for coccidia, giardia and they often develop upper respiratory infections, according to a former employee.
Lizaso said some of the kangaroos are inbred. She said the male kangaroo is able to jump over the fence and has impregnated his daughter. After the kangaroos give birth, the facility pulls their babies from them to be bottle fed.
Lizaso said Babby Farms’ primates suffer from a lack of enrichment. She said a gibbon is housed completely alone without the ability to see or hear other nonhuman primates. A black capped capuchin monkey has severe anxiety and can often be seen carrying a blanket and rocking in a corner, a sign of extreme stress. Although the USDA requires Babby Farms to have a documented enrichment plan, Lizaso said the facility never follows it.
USDA regulations indicate that enclosures housing dangerous animals, including primates, must have a secondary perimeter fence to prevent public contact with the animals inside the enclosure. The primate enclosures at Babby Farms do not have a secondary perimeter fence and zoo visitors are able to reach their hands into the cages with the lemurs, gibbons and other primates.
Lizaso said that last year a Geoffrey’s marmoset bit an employee’s face.
A former employee that asked to remain anonymous said that a spider monkey named Mowgli has bitten several zoo visitors and has attacked staff multiple times.
“Two staff members were sent to the hospital to receive stitches due to being attacked by Mowgli,” the former employee said.
The former employee said both of the attacks were within a one month time period.
“A few visitors have also been bitten by Mowgli but the bites were considered non-serious,” the former employee said.
The former employees described other incidents of zoo animals biting visitors. They said the otters would frequently bite zoo visitors during otter encounters.
Babby Farms visitor Georgia Thies said a coatimundi bit her daughter at the facility and the employee conducting the petting encounter didn't know where a first aid kit was.
"I had to wrap my daughter's arm in my shirt to try to stop the bleeding," she said.
Thies said her daughter had to be taken to the emergency room due to the bite.
"Over a year later [she] still has very prominent scarring in her hand and wrist," Thies said.
Babby Farms visitor Shawna Kroeker said her daughter was severely bitten by one of the lemurs and had to be taken to the hospital.
“While the staff helped get the blood to slow down they did nothing about the lemur, and when they asked my daughter if anything would make her feel better she asked for a little stuffed animal to hold on the way to the hospital and they really made me pay for it,” Kroeker said.
Babby Farms visitor Anna Bier said her husband, son, niece and two other relatives contracted E. coli from their visit to the roadside zoo.
“My son got it the worst,” she said. “He was hospitalized for a month, dialysis daily, blood transfusions, blood pressure meds, he got so bad!”
Bier said her son got over the E. coli but he is still on blood pressure medication.
All of the former Babby Farms employees described small, filthy, unsafe enclosures, and inadequate and inappropriate diets for the exotic animals.
Lizaso said the facility primarily feeds the animals discarded produce from area grocery stores.
“When I would go through the produce I would find mold, rot, and pieces of garbage mixed in with the produce,” she said. “None of them are eating an appropriate diet.”
She said she’s worried that Babby Farms is starving the animals to save money.
“These animals are being starved and neglected,” she said.
When the animals become sick, the zoo’s “winter room” is turned into a sort of sick room for the animals, Lizaso said. She said this summer, employees found maggots on the floor of the room.
The former employees said the animals at Babby Farms are often shuffled to another location in Star, ID, called Front Twenty Farms.
Front Twenty Farms has made numerous social media posts indicating the facility is conducting regulated activity by exhibiting animals to the public; an activity that requires a USDA Class C “exhibitors” license. USDA records indicate Front Twenty Farms is not USDA licensed and the USDA has never completed an inspection at the Star location.
Several former employees said that aside from animal neglect, they also experienced sexual harassment from Babby Farms’ assistant manager. They said when they brought the harassment to the attention of Harris, the issue was swept under the rug.
“The owner, Cheryl, has been cold and aggressive towards employees who try to speak up,” according to a public social media post.
Several former Babby Farms employees have begun posting on social media about their experience working at the facility.
In response, Babby Farms posted a statement on their Facebook page, saying they care about the health and well-being of their animals. They encouraged followers to review the public records of the federal and state organizations ensuring the care of the animals at their roadside zoo.
“If violations were to occur, our facilities would be required to shut down until all violations are properly addressed,” according to the social media post.
U.S. Department of Agriculture records indicate the facility is inspected about once per year by inspector Brian Hood. Hood has cited the facility five times in the past.
In 2014, Hood cited Babby Farms for not properly cleaning an otter enclosure that had a filthy den box. He also documented that their dry food storage area was covered with rodent droppings.
In 2016, Hood cited Babby Farms for an enclosure housing goats and sheep that did not have adequate shade to protect the animals from the sun. A food receptacle for the sika deer and kangaroo exhibit had sunk into the ground and was half covered with hay and yard litter. Hood also found a pig that was so obese that its belly was dragging on the ground and it was having a difficult time walking, according to the USDA inspection report. He ordered Babby Farms to review the pig’s diet plan and implement a nutritionally balanced diet.
Contrary to Babby Farms' claims, roadside zoos are rarely shut down by the USDA and some facilities continue to retain their USDA license even after receiving more than one hundred violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
The former employees have started a petition to shut down Babby Farms which has received more than 5,000 signatures in less than a week.
Lizaso said she and the other Babby Farms employees loved the animals and tried their best to take care of them “but we only have so much power over their unfortunate situation.”
She said people need to be aware of the animal neglect occuring at Babby Farms.
“The animals deserve to be relocated to facilities that can give them the proper care, attention, and love they deserve," she said.
Here’s how you can help:
File a USDA complaint by visiting https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalwelfare/complaint-form
Name of USDA licensee: Trace, Inc.
License number: 82-C-0070
Location: Caldwell, Idaho
Feel free to copy and paste this article into your complaint.
Thank you for being a voice for the animals.