While Paws Discovery Farm appears to have reached its end, 45 of its previous inhabitants have just begun their next chapter at a new home nearby.
When news broke that the Garden State Discovery Museum was ending its management contract with the 40-year-old petting zoo and farm, which was subsequently closing, Darlene Supnick of Forgotten Angels Equine Rescue in Medford acted quickly to take in Paws’ remaining residents. The three South Jersey farms that comprise Forgotten Angels’ network, she knew, have enough acreage to ensure that bonded pairs stayed together and creatures who need wide open spaces could stretch their legs.
“I found out on Tuesday [Feb. 25] and we moved all the animals out that Saturday,” she said, detailing a mission to contact state senators Troy Singleton and Dawn Addiego and The Humane Society of the United State’s New Jersey Director Brian Hackett to take in the nearly 50 animals left on the farm.
“I was concerned that bonded herds would be broken up.”
Supnik said the chickens, peacocks, emus, mini-horses, mini-donkeys, mini-zebu cow, goats, sheep, pigs and bearded dragon are now at home in Forgotten Angels’ Pemberton and Waterford Works farms are all doing well.
“They were stressed in the trailer, but the minute they got out and had acres and acres to run and grass, they were investigating and bucking and running or jumping or rolling,” she noted.
“They were so excited that, all of a sudden, they had 10 acres they could run in. Even the peacocks: I’ve never seen such happy animals. It was amazing to see.”
With Paws part of the community for four decades, Supnik realizes the bonds forged at the farm and nature center go beyond the animals who lived there, and she has encouraged their previous guardians to visit.
“We’ve invited their former caregivers to help us because they’ve known these animals for some time, some for 10 years,” Supnik explained. “The caregivers have been wonderful.”
And once the farm’s newest residents have settled into a new home, Supnick plans to extend that invitation to the public with free Paws Days so anyone who misses a favorite Paws animal can see them again.
Supnick added those who want to help support the former Paws animals and their ongoing care are always welcome to donate feed and hay.
Meanwhile, Mt. Laurel Township Council wants to publicly acknowledge the myriad concerns raised by the community since news broke of Paws’ closure on Feb. 25. At the end of the month, council dispatched a Q&A-style compilation to answer more than a dozen of the questions members most frequently heard from the public.
“The countless emails, phone calls, petition signatures, and messages expressing what Paws meant to each one of you is important to all of us,” the preface to the document assured anxious, frustrated and impassioned residents.
The question-and-answer sheet addressed items such as: the date both the township and council were first notified of Paws’ “imminent closure” (Dec. 5, 2019); when the farm closed to the public (Jan. 6, 2020); if the Paws property will be developed (no, as the state’s Green Acres protections restrict the land to exclusively open-space and recreational uses); and why Mt. Laurel Township will not operate the farm (it had tried to run Paws 15 years ago and could not do so successfully, which is why it contracted with the Discovery Museum in 2017).
Other disclosures detailed how the township paid for the farm’s electric and gas bills and trash pickup, as well as providing maintenance to the grounds; repaving and expanding the parking lot in April, 2019; and, recently, “amend(ing) its ordinance to allow Discovery to use catering and social liquor license permits to host fundraisers, weddings and other social events at the farm to supplement income.”
The entire Q&A document can be read on the township’s Facebook page at facebook.com/TownshipofMountLaurel. The council also invites residents to reach out with any additional questions or suggestions via private message through its Facebook account or by calling the township directly at (856) 234-0001.