Petting zoos, which have become one of Montclair State’s most frequent campus events, have been receiving criticism from a portion of the student body.
Last month saw the first petting zoo of the fall 2017 semester at Montclair State University. This gained the attention of the Montclair Animal Activist club on campus who were concerned for the well-being of the animals.
While the animal activists did not protest the petting zoo in person on Sept. 11, they did show up at the petting zoo on Friday Oct. 13. Several members were handing out flyers with information about their concerns with the petting zoo.
“It’s more than just animals to pet and distress,” said Maya Idrovo, a student who distributed flyers at the event. “When you step aside and look at it as more than what you want it to be, it is animals in small cages who succumb to the circumstances of organizations such as petting zoos.”
The flyers the activists were handing out detailed various concerns for the animals, such as denial of food and water, being transported for long amounts of time in confined spaces and lack of time to exercise.
In a statement, SLAM said, “In the past there have not been humane standards, just what fits our budget. But within the past year or so, our board has made efforts to do out best to find the most humane petting zoos and animal experiences to bring to our campus.”
Before resorting to flyers, the activists had gone to a Student Life at Montclair (SLAM) meeting to voice their concerns but felt that what they had to say was dismissed due to the continuation of the event. The organization also created a petition on change.org which has gained more than 80 signatures.
The Montclair Animal Activist club had support from some students who attended the event, such as freshman Zoe Gleason.
“I was holding a bunny rabbit earlier and I was just holding him and he seemed to be pretty relaxed,” Gleason said. “But as soon as two people walked up and started petting him he got really anxious and tried to squirm away,” said Gleason.
Not all students agree that there is an issue.
“If anything, farmers would care more about animals than the average person since they’re the ones taking care of them,” said Carlos Valdivia, a student attending the event.
Since the petting zoos have become a regular campus event, many students felt that it would be upsetting if the event was discontinued.
“I would feel devastated because I feel that petting zoos are great for campus,” said Samantha St. Vil. “I always look forward to coming here. It’s a really great way to destress after exams and quizzes.”
The owner of the petting zoo, Carolyn Narepecha, agreed that petting zoos can be an issue but did not feel that hers was.
“There are petting zoos out there that do not take care of their animals and I’m very against it,” Narapecha said. “My animals all have names. They all are handled by us directly and taken care of and loved. My animals come first in terms of their well being.”
Narepecha owns The Friendly Farmyard Traveling Pony and Petting Zoo which consists of 13 animals, all of which are rescue animals. She has worked in animal rescue for almost 16 years, having volunteered at the Montclair and Bloomfield animal shelters.
While there are not likely to be anymore campus petting zoos this semester, the animal activists intend to continue protesting and addressing their concerns to SLAM and the rest of the student body until petting zoos are removed from campus for good.
“Our animal oriented events tend to have the highest participation rate,” SLAM said. “If the majority of the students don’t want to see petting zoos we will stop bringing them.”