After Roadside Zoo News submitted a detailed complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding animal neglect, animal attacks and federal violations that are reportedly occurring at Babby Farms, the agency has cited the Idaho roadside zoo with two violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
Babby Farms is located in Caldwell, Idaho, and is USDA licensed under the name Cheryl Fullilove/Trace, Inc. The facility has a purported 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 can 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.
In November 2021, former employees started a petition to shut down Babby Farms that has now amassed more than 16,000 signatures. The former Babby Farms employees said the facility has a history of neglecting their animals and that numerous animals died without veterinary care in inadequate conditions without access to appropriate diets.
The former employees' complaints included concerns over two baby otters named Ying and Yang that Babby Farms obtained in July 2020. The former employees allege the baby otters died just a few weeks after they were acquired and they suspect the otters' deaths were caused by stress from being used in pay-to-play interactions.
Records provided by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) indicate Babby Farms obtained the otters from Tonia Haddix, a Missouri woman currently involved in a court battle with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who allege Haddix was keeping chimpanzees in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, and that she lied and said a chimpanzee died in order to hide the chimp from them and prevent it from being moved to an accredited sanctuary.
Email records indicate Haddix picked up the baby otters from a facility in Wisconsin in July 2020 and transported them nearly 2,000 miles to the nonprofit Idaho roadside zoo, where they later died.
On November 5, 2021, officials with IDFG and the Idaho State Department of Agriculture inspected Babby Farms. Inspection reports indicate that several animals were identified that had open wounds or that were overweight, but the agencies found no major issues.
IDFG Regional Wildlife Manager Ryan Walrath wrote in an email that the visit showed that Babby Farms had improved upon items that were brought up from a visit two years ago and "took extra steps on items that were not mentioned."
The main issue IDFG identified was that Babby Farms had not submitted a Commercial Facility Permit and they had not submitted their annual facility documentation, according to records provided by IDFG.
Several people commented on the petition to shut down Babby Farms to complain that their children had fallen ill after visiting Babby Farms or they'd been injured by animals at the facility. One woman commented that five of her family members contracted E. coli from their visit to Babby Farms. Another woman commented that her child was taken to the hospital after being severely bitten by a lemur at the facility. A third woman commented that her child was bitten so badly by a coatimundi at Babby Farms that the bite caused tendon damage.
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 enclosures at Babby Farms do not have a secondary perimeter fence, so zoo visitors are able to reach their hands into the cages with primates, bobcats and other animals.
Richard Bell with the USDA’s press team told Lady Freethinker there were no noncompliance issues with the fencing.
USDA Inspector Brian Hood has inspected Babby Farms at each of their past eight USDA inspections since 2014. On Jan. 6, 2022, Hood inspected Babby Farms and found there were issues of noncompliance with fencing.
Hood noted in his report that Babby Farm’s primate enclosures do not have a public barrier where the walkway is and “the primates do reach out and make contact with the public.”
The only barrier preventing the public from making contact with a bobcat is “one strand of rope attached to fence posts approximately 18 inches from the enclosure.”
A Babby Farms representative admitted to Hood that two children had been taken to the hospital after being bitten by a lemur and a coatimundi at the facility. Hood cited Babby Farms with a critical violation for the handling of animals.
“During public exhibition steps must be taken to provide sufficient distance and or barrier between the animals and the public to assure the safety of the animals and the public and so this does not repeat,” Hood wrote in his report.
Hood also cited Babby Farms with a non critical violation for an 8-year-old ring-tailed lemur named Marquee who was able to make contact with a primate in an adjacent enclosure. The two were fighting which resulted in a laceration on Marquee’s hand.
“Housing facilities must be constructed of such material that protect the animals from having contact with adjacent animals and being injured,” Hood said in the report.
The January 2022 USDA inspection report also indicates that 16 sheep and two goats that were at Babby Farms in July 2021 are no longer there.
On Nov. 1, 2021, Babby Farms posted a statement on social media addressing the claims of animal mistreatment.
“If violations were to occur, our facilities would be required to shut down until all violations are properly addressed,” Babby Farms said in their statement. On Nov. 12, Babby Farms deleted their Facebook page.
The 2022 USDA report outlines violations occurring at Babby Farms, however, the roadside zoo was not required to shut down until all the violations were properly addressed; indicating Babby Farms was dishonest in their social media post.
IDFG inspection reports and images from Nov. 5, 2021 inspection of Babby Farms: