by Ron & Angie Van Herwyn
Kritter Kids was the original name of the company when I began it in August of 2005, after I retired from the military. I was a disabled veteran and my life was about to change. At the end of August, a friend handed me two handicapped raccoons. That is how it started.
I was able to obtain USDA and Alabama state exhibitor licenses. Throughout the years we continued to grow, taking in handicapped raccoons from different sanctuaries, zoos, and rescues all over the U.S., as long as they had licenses from the USDA and their State. The animals were survivors of distemper, parvo, cerebellar, were blind or deaf amputees, were born with crippled limbs, or had been severely abused by humans. My feeling as a disabled veteran is that they help me as much as I help them. My goal was to save these creatures and give them a safe and secure life full of care and love.
I started traveling around the State of Alabama teaching about wildlife and presenting educational wildlife shows. We would make a little money with the classes, but not much, and our organization has never received any grants—federal, state or local. Angie, my wife, and I built everything ourselves. We pay taxes on our business because we are not a non-profit organization.
We no longer live in Montgomery, Alabama because we sold our house and bought our present home in McKenzie, Alabama, in Butler County. We found the perfect property for all our animals, with room for future ones for our zoo; we moved here last July. Our zoo is right next to our home; Angie has an office upstairs, where we also have a small store, and where the public pays to see the animals. Our zoo is small enough that I can teach people about all the animals that we have.
We work with handicapped and special wildlife by giving them a forever home. One of our main activities is developing ways to make their lives comfortable. We do physical therapy on them to assist in mobility and cope with pain, and we have different types of wheelchairs available.
We have a great private and zoo vet, but receive no discounts. We are well known to rescue groups on Facebook, by word of mouth, and to the news media. This is how people find us for animals that need placement. But for indigenous wildlife to come here, they must be deemed non-releasable by a vet, have a health certificate, and be released to a USDA facility, like ours. I can purchase and accept donated “exotics”. We have fourteen handicapped and special-needs raccoons, and four others which are healthy.
We have a tayra (a kind of weasel), a ring-tailed cat, a kinkajou, several white-nosed coatimundis, South American mountain coatimundis, a red fox, a few silver foxes, and a Bennett Wallaby. We also have parrots, ducks, geese, horses, and a goat. Altogether we have around sixty-five animals. We will always take in handicapped and special needs animals. We are hoping to have only one or two additions a year of exotics and healthy indigenous animals.
All the raccoons, foxes, coatis, and the tayra eat dog kibble. The ring-tailed cat eats cat kibble; the kinkajou,coatis, and tayra eat fruits, berries, nuts, honey, bugs, and lizards.
Our community support is from the general public visiting our zoo, for which we charge $8.00 per person; children five years and under are free.
We are dedicated to educating the public about the wild animals that surround us and teaching people to coexist with them. Since we have just opened this facility, we have not organized any fundraisers as yet, but will do so soon. As far as advertising is concerned, we use Facebook, have been interviewed by a local TV station, and a reality show called Absolutely Alabama, plus a couple of local newspapers. We are looking at some night events, based on holidays which may work with the zoo animals.
Angie and I run the facility with no paid staff, but we have four outstanding volunteers who help us by feeding, cleaning, and improving enclosures. They also assist us with classes on the facility and off, at venues such as schools, churches, and colleges.
All money taken in front-of-house sales and educational talks goes back into the zoo for food, improvements, care, cages, vet services, and medications. We are always in need of donations, so if people would like to give donations, we would be grateful for dog food (Purina Dog Chow), fruits, peanuts, blankets, fans, chain link runs, and tarps. We also need wood chips and toys for enrichment.
Ronald and Angie Van Herwyn
2637 Booker Road
McKenzie, Alabama 36456
Phone: 334-301-5131 or 334-301-5128
Kritter Kids Kountry Korner Zoo
PayPal account for financial donations: kritterkids@yahoo[dot]com
Kritter Kids Wildlife Education has been helping not only educate people but saving animals’ lives for many years. Even though almost all the animals we have are handicapped, this does not mean we are limited to animals with disabilities only. We made the decision to only keep non-releasable animals as we want to give them a second chance in life. We believe that healthy animals that can be released, should be. We are not “re-habbers” but we have raised many of the animals at our facility from babies. With this being said, we are exhibitors, in other words, a zoo. We are open to the public and we do private shows when requested. We take our animals to places such as schools, Bark in the Parks, disabled children’s facilities, and handicapped/wounded warriors, etc. Since we are not a non-profit organization, all money received goes straight back into the zoo.
We both have taken the following courses: Growing up Wild, Project Wild (Certified Instructors), Project Learning Tree, and Certified Project Wild and Advanced Project Wild Teachers.
Our main goal is a commitment to connecting young children to nature.