Miniature donkeys and goats are among the animals preparing for their debut at a new petting zoo set to open Saturday in Penticton.
Other residents at Andy’s Animal Acres on Three Mile Road include pot-bellied pigs, guinea pigs, horses, sheep and bunnies.
Zookeeper Andrea Buyan said she’s a lifelong animal-lover who saw a need for such a place.
“I’m passionate about my animals, and I think that there’s a lack of good, wholesome things for families to do here in the Okanagan,” she said.
She hopes to instil in kids an appreciation for four-legged friends by allowing to to “be hands-on with animals, understand them (and) respect them. So that’s what we’re opening for.”
Buyan said she learned animal husbandry skills at a large, publicly accessible farm on the Lower Mainland, then began accumulating animals of her own after moving to the Okanagan a few years ago.
“Lots of them are rescues that are here,” she added.
With the closure of the petting zoo last year in Keremeos, Buyan said the time was right to start her own, which she noted will be smaller and more hands-on. It will also serve as a satellite adoption centre to showcase rescue rabbits from the SPCA.
Jamie Armer, the agency’s manager for the South Okanagan Similkameen, said the shelter in Penticton has limited space for bunnies and often places them with foster families while they wait for adoption.
He said he knew Buyan as an SPCA volunteer and was quick to jump on her offer to host rabbits at the zoo.
“The fact that there will be members of the public coming through, and it will give our animals more exposure than just people coming to the shelter or looking online, can only help,” Armer said.
It’s not uncommon for SPCA branches to partner with veterinarians or pet stores to show off animals that are up for adoption, he added, but hosts have to make the grade.
“Anyone that we work with has to meet our criteria and our welfare standards, so it’s not just a case of finding someone who’s willing to house a few animals. They’ve got to meet our criteria,” Armer said.
The zoo at 1154 Three Mile Road opens June 1. For the first month, it will be open from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays only. Summer hours will be announced later. Admission is $7 per person, but free for kids under one year.