In their big shaded pen at the Monroe County jail, the goats curiously eyed the newest addition to their herd, then lost interest and scampered off for more frolicking.
This was just fine with the new goat, whose name is French Fry, who appeared to prefer bonding with the emu in the adjacent pen, whose name is Kramer.
"He doesn't believe he's a goat," said Deputy Jeanne Selander, the jail petting zoo's official "farmer," who within days of the goat's arrival was already figuring out his behavior and quirks. Wednesday was French Fry's first day with the herd, and although Selander was concerned about adjustment issues, the other goats appeared to accept him, despite his own reticence.
It's what she does with each of the birds, reptiles and mammals, whom she refers to as "her children" and whose personal histories she recites by rote.
Last week marked six years of Selander's tenure as director of one of the only petting zoos at a correctional institution in the world. A state prison in upstate New York operates one. A prison in Israel boasts such an attraction as well. There are no local jails in the United States that Selander knows of that do the same thing.
Asked the greatest lesson she has learned in six years as farmer, Selander gives a one-word answer.
Patience with the animals, yes. But also patience with people. That includes the inmates who help care for the critters, as well as the knowledge of how bad decisions by people make for bad outcomes with animals.
"I've always had patience with animals; it's patience with people that I have had to learn," she said. "Patience and tolerance. I really believe that is the lesson God meant for me at this jail."
Pigs, tortoises, sugar-gliders, a lemur and a kinkajou are among the residents of the petting zoo who ended up there because people thought an exotic or offbeat pet was a good idea at the time, but learned there was more to it than anyone told them.
And then there are the more egregious cases, like the blind horse named Ghost who was found wandering the Miami-Dade area with protruding outlines of ribs.
Selander hopes the stories from the farm serve to educate as well as entertain.
The farm itself had a modest beginning in 1994, when Sheriff Rick Roth took in Muscovy ducks and chickens to keep them from becoming Stock Island roadkill.
Shortly after that the Miami Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) called, trying to place the blind horse.
Animals kept on coming, including a giant tortoise named Albert who still lives there.
Still other animals were placed after being seized in drug raids.
Selander, who was assistant curator at the Key West Aquarium, took over the full-time running of the farm in 2006. A dive instructor with a degree in biology originally from Charleston, S.C., Selander was told she could take in whatever animals she felt she could handle.
Sheriff Bob Peryam continued the program, and now that he is leaving, Selander has no doubt his replacement, once elected, will continue to support it.
Feed and vet bills are paid for through inmate welfare money, collected through the sale of canteen items, so taxpayers do not support the farm. The average feed bill runs $1,000 per month, or $12,000 per year.
Feed needs of individual animals vary. The largest animal on the farm, a bull named Angus, requires about 8 pounds of feed per day. Pigs may require about half a pound twice per day.
Donations pay for habitat construction materials, landscaping and other extras, Selander said.
On days when the zoo is open, visitors average around 120. Selander also sets up field trips at schools.
Rabbits, tropical birds, an albino python and Patagonian cavies also call the farm home, the latter among the world's largest rodents.
And then there are the less exotic -- but no less loved -- residents such as French Fry.
His owners, Danny and Roberta Acevedo, asked Selander if there was room for him at the jail because they could not care for him, and their grown sons had difficulty doing so because of their own schedules.
"We had him since he was 10 days old, and now he is 14 months old, and it broke our hearts to give him up," Danny Acevedo said. "He has been another baby for us. At 14 months he was still getting a baby bottle with milk in the morning. He was very spoiled. He would look at you with those golden brown eyes with that little black spot in the middle, with so much love."
Heartbroken, but realizing that giving up their pet was in the best interest of all concerned, the Acevedos tried to find a home where they could be guaranteed the goat named for a side order wouldn't end up as a main course, and where he could be around other goats. The jail came to mind because of newspaper articles the family had read, and they paid a visit after contacting Selander.
"The grounds were so absolutely clean," Acevedo said. "If you had to drop off one of your children, this is the place where you'd want to do it. My wife still wakes up at 3 a.m. crying."
The Acevedos plan to visit French Fry as often as possible.
Anyone else wishing to do so may visit from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, and on every second and fourth Sunday of the month. Admission is free, though donations are welcome.