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Animal lives matter

Ensuring the safety and well being of South’s precious friends

Kyrsten Chen, Staff Writer

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Here at South Plantation High, we have a horticulture program that allows for hands on experience with a variety of animals such as goats, horses, rabbits, snakes, birds, pigs, a ferret, turtles and other more exotic animals such as sugar gliders and Willie-Nelson the prairie dog. The students are the predominant care-takers and come in over the weekends to bathe, feed, clean the pens and do other task that have to be done.  Students passing by can be often found stopping to view or pet the animals on a daily basis.

This program is led by Gustavo Junco, who also teaches the drone class, but was originally started by Mr. Wallic, a former teacher for South. “This program has been around for at least 25 years maybe even more,” said Junco.

The animals and plants are located in the middle of the magnet loop, in between the science building and the magnet building, which sometimes causes safety issues because there is a lot of traffic in the morning and afternoon from drop-off and pick-up; and sometimes the goats and sheep escape their pens. Unfortunately, last school year, one of the female goats was hit by a car and suffered a broken horn hanging onto its head.

On one side of the horticulture building is a garden filled with a variety of plants. The garden is where the sheep are kept as well as where the ducks like to roam. On the opposite side of the building is a fenced in area of a maze of pens, each containing different animals.

 

The bad conditions that the large pig lives in.

Nora Running-Finger
The poor conditions that the large pig, Paramore, lives in everyday.

Some of the pigs are separated from each other in different pens. Paramore, an enormous mama pig, has her own shelter in a pen the size of the upstairs girls’ bathrooms in the main building. She also has a little mud pit that sometimes turns green due to stagnant water.  In the pig pen to her right lies a medium-sized shelter for seven black pigs, which includes a couple of mud pits; the size is fairly large considering there are seven pigs.

Due to obvious reasons, the male pigs are separated from the females. The horticulture program owns three male pigs. Two of them are together in the same pen, while the other one is separated due to him being “mean and aggressive.” Both pens are too small and allow barely any running or playing room.

Another mainstay at the program are the goats, who are also separated by male and female. The female goats are kept together between the pony pen and Paramore’s pen. The pen contains three shelters where the goats sleep and stand when it is raining. There is a total of twelve female goats in that one pen, making the pen very cramped with little room for them to run around and get exercise. The three male goats are kept in a pen in the corner near the pigs. All goats and pigs are fed fruits that are donated from local grocery stores, and donations are always much needed to help this costly program.

After school on September 13th, a sheep was found lying down on his side unable to get up. “The sheep was constipated from things he wasn’t supposed to be eating.” Says senior, Rey Delgado. The sheep was left to roam around the back of the school near the magnet building and cafeteria due to the painters at the school working near the sheep pen. This is most likely where the sheep ate the things it was not supposed to. If it was not for the help of an emergency doctor, the sheep would have died.

All of the shelters were built by the students in the horticulture classes, as well as the accessories such as hay baskets and coverings for shade. “Everything is built by the students due to the program being designed to be student project based.” says Junco. Part of the curriculum requires that students come up with a project each semester that has to do with either plants or animals and build something to help that specific organism.

The program obtains its money for all the animals and their necessities, as well as, the tools needed to take care of the area from fundraisers and plant sales. “When the students in the horticulture program pass their certification test, the school earns money, so we put it toward the program.” says Junco. The budget of this program is roughly about 10,000 dollars.

Within the outdoor area of the horticulture area, there is a shade house that contains a wide variety of different plants, along with a house for rabbits. Although the house is very spacious for the bunnies to move around and jump in, it is often very dirty with their food being mixed in with their droppings. There are a total of five rabbits. “I wish the rabbits had things to play with instead of just the small houses in which they sleep and hide. They are very inactive and I feel the toys will bring up their mood.” Says sophomore Victoria Ramirez.

Inside the horticulture building, there is a variety of different animals living inside small cages within separate rooms. Walking into the bird room, immediately your met with a plethora of different bird species. The types of birds in there are three Cockatoos, many Parakeets, three Macaws, one Amazon, two Love Birds, and two Canaries. “Not all of these birds get along that well because they all have different personalities, just like people. Sometimes when they aren’t accustomed to each other things don’t go well.” Said an anonymous source. These birds do not get as much flight time as they should; Parrots, for example, should be flying almost all the time, but here they are almost always pent up in a cage.

Here is the big question: is it healthy for all of these different species of birds to be in the same enclosed room all the time? According to the same source, the answer is no. Their physical and mental health are impacted due to their wiring to survive in each of their natural habitats.

 

The animal science students burying a small bird that has recently died.

Nora Running-Finger
The animal science students burying a small bird that has recently died.

This could be seen in the impacts the Old World birds, such as the cockatoos, have on the New World birds, such as the Amazon parrots. The Old World birds create dust o keep themselves cool because their natural habitat, which is Africa and Australia, is very hot and dry, but the New World birds’ lungs are not designed to take in all that dust being produced. The result is the New World birds not living to their full potential.

Students have recently expressed concerns about animals roaming unsupervised around campus. In addition to the incident with the sheep, one of the ponies was recently spotted in the student parking lot at dismissal. Goats are often in the car loop when cars are present and have occasionally made it onto the street in the front of the school.

There have been suggestions to help the animals live happier and healthier. Christine Henshel, the principal, has big plans for the horticulture program. She implemented a rule to lessen the number of animals in the program to diminish the overcrowding. Now, all animals are required to have a maximum number of three or four animals per species.

“I would like to move the horticulture program from the middle of a traffic prone area to the back side of campus, but in order for me to do that, the number of animals need to be decreased and the back needs to be cleaned up first.” says Henshel. Her first priority, as well as other student’s priority, is the care and health of the animal.

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Animal lives matter