MIDDLETOWN - A popular petting zoo in Middletown will soon have to change the way it operates.
The Simmons Farm petting zoo is known for being a self-serve facility. It's open from sunrise to sunset and guests are welcome to stay as long as they like without being monitored by staff or anyone else.
But the system isn't working for the owners anymore. Now, more than ever, they're losing money, and losing sleep over the abuse of their animals.
"I have seen kicking the ducks... throwing grain, whipping it right at the goats faces... there was the instance of the man not too long ago wiggling the broken horn of the goat," said Karla Simmons, who owns the farm with her husband.
And on top of the animal abuse, The Simmons Farm is losing more money than ever before through its self–serve grain bin, which works on the honor system. It's supposed to be 50 cents a cup... but the owners estimate that people only pay for about 18 of every 100 cups of feed they put out.
"People don't control their kids... they don't leave money in the honor jar... I've seen them just taking handfuls of feed out of the can," said Marie Snider, who was visiting the petting zoo with her daughter and grandson. Snider has been coming to the farm since her daughter was little.
So beginning next month, the petting zoo will only be open during specific hours when staff members are on-site. That will limit both days and times that visitors can come feed the animals.... and will put an end to the tradition of visiting, and staying, as long as you'd like at the farm.
"If you had a free hour, and there was something you needed to do, it was like... Lets go feed Miss Karla's goats! To have to plan it... I mean we'll still be here... but it just won't be as spontaneous as it is now," said Snider.
"It is heartbreaking," said Simmons.
For the latest information on when the petting zoo will be open visit their Facebook page.