Closed zoo seeks new homes for its animals Future in balance as pets or meat

November 03, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

A llama, goats and other animals from the petting zoo at the defunct Tradersmart indoor bazaar may be slaughtered if the zoo's owners cannot find homes for them.

"I don't want them to go to slaughter. Those lambs, I got them when they were one week old and I kept them in a cage in the bathroom and bottle-fed them," said Louann Lewis, owner of the C & J Amusements petting zoo. She and her husband, Donald, also operated amusement rides in the building.

The Lewises have been scrambling to try to sell their animals -- at a substantial loss -- or find temporary quarters for them while they try to relocate the petting zoo. They have until tomorrow afternoon, the deadline set by Tradersmart for all merchants to vacate the building.

County building and fire inspectors ordered the Tradersmart building, in the Beltway Crossing Shopping Center on Ritchie Highway, closed last month, citing about a dozen building code violations. Co-owner Richard Kabat said Friday that Tradersmart, which rented stalls to fewer than 100 vendors, was a failing business that did not make enough money to warrant bringing the building up to code.

Tradersmart held a grand opening last Thanksgiving weekend, but Mr. Kabat said he doubted that even brisk holiday sales would have kept the business from folding in another few months.

Many merchants are having a hard time finding new outlets for their wares. Popular flea markets are filled at this time of year and few vendors can afford to lease other space, they said.

Some vendors said they cannot get their goods out of the building by tomorrow. Others have no place to take the merchandise, and at least one merchant is consulting a lawyer. Some items are going in basements, attics, on trailers, in cold storage.

Unfortunately, those aren't options for the animals.

"I'm trying to negotiate a deal to put them on a guy's farm," said Mr. Lewis. If he cannot find temporary shelter for them, "they'll go to a market, and they'll go for meat."

That includes a $3,000 llama, two pregnant Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, a little brown pony, sheep and goats. The animals, accustomed to being petted and bottle- and hand-fed, readily approach strangers.

The Lewises sold their horse farm near Mountain Road and Route 100 in Pasadena to the Anne Arundel County government four years ago, and do not have enough property to keep the animals.

Nor would many other city and suburban dwellers.

Pot-bellied pigs are domestic animals, as are cats and dogs, under Anne Arundel County zoning regulations. But the rest are considered farm animals and require at least one acre, said Kevin Dooley, zoning analyst.

The Lewises said they invested about $68,000 in their kiddie rides, which they may be able to sell, and the petting zoo.

The couple sold a few sheep and goats in recent days.

"I still have about 20 to sell yet. I'd rather sell them to private people than send them for slaughter," he said.

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