This is one of those times when all of us here in South Jersey need to come together, chip in, and help an absolutely wonderful organization.

The beginning of this story is horrific and may bring tears to your eyes. The end of this same story is nothing short of amazing and, again, may bring tears to your eyes for a completely different reason.

Allow me to caution you that some of the details that follow are truly horrific.

News broke at the end of January that two people in Atlantic County were facing animal cruelty charges after authorities allegedly discovered "dozens of roosters trained to fight" and "multiple dead birds in varying stages of decay" at a property in Buena Vista Township.

According to the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office, 81-year-old Sigfredo Perez of Newtonville and 49-year-old Queli Merlo of Hammonton were arrested and charged with third-degree owning/training live animals for the purpose of fighting offenses.

Authorities say those charges stemmed from an investigation that started from an anonymous tip about a home that was alleged to have been housing birds used for fighting.

  • A search of the property yielded dozens of roosters trained to fight as well as equipment used to train the roosters to fight.
  • Over 100 other birds were found to be living in unsanitary conditions on the property.
  • Multiple dead birds in varying stages of decay were also found on the property.

Detectives also seized two dogs, five rabbits, and several cats that were reported to be living in unsanitary conditions and in need of medical treatment.

Property where fighting roosters and other animals were found in Buena
Property where fighting roosters and other animals were found in Buena (Funny Farm Rescue)

That was the end of January.

Following about a month in quarantine to make sure they would not spread any diseases, all of the surviving animals at that house of horrors needed to be taken care of.

Funny Farm Rescue in Mays Landing, led by Laurie Zaleski and a team of volunteers, was called by State Police to assist with the situation.

They said they were told there were "dozens" of animals.

In reality, there were hundreds.

Before continuing this story, if you have not ever visited Funny Farm Rescue in Mays Landing, allow me to paint a picture. The farm is down a side street in Mays Landing, far removed from downtown. Once you walk up the driveway, there are somewhere around 600 rescued animals of all shapes and sizes from all walks of life all living their best lives possible.

Funny Farm Rescue & Sanctuary has created a home for unwanted farm animals, domesticated animals and animals with special needs to live out their natural lives.

And unlike a zoo, many of them roam free -- as in if you're waiting in line at their snack stand, there's a good chance that a donkey will be standing right next to you. Or a turkey. Or a goat. Or a peacock. Or all at of them at the same time.

And Funny Farm could easily charge $10 or $20 admission, but they don't. It's free to enter and walk around. You can help support the farm by buying buckets of food, a souvenir, maybe a copy of the book Laurie wrote, or just a cup of coffee.

If you've never been there, the farm is a true hidden gem in our area.

WPG Talk Radio 95.5 FM logo
Get our free mobile app

Anyway, back to the story... as those with Funny Farm arrived at the scene in Buena Vista Township, they were met with the "most horrific and overwhelming experience" they've ever had to handle.

Here is their story in their own words:

Animal Control and the State Police were there to help supervise the rescue of as many animals as we could save. Sadly, many perished before we arrived.

Laurie was already not feeling well after an exhaustive week. Saturday’s are supposed to be days to relax. Instead, she made 3 trips with her horse trailer to this awful place to save animals which took all day and into dark. Without eating or drinking anything, she saved over 150 animals. Although others helped, Laurie was the only solution to giving these animals any chance at life. One other farm was there and accepted 6 hens.

Immediately, volunteers scrambled and came from all directions to build temporary houses and clean new areas for them to live. Many animals had to be rearranged to make room for new animals. New areas were built and are still being built.

And then they said this:

We have never been in more need of help.

Think of it this way: if you have one dog or one cat, you know that's a lot of work. Suddenly having to take care of a second dog or cat is that much more work.

Now imagine already running a farm full of animals and now you have over 150 more that you didn't have just hours before.

We've dealt with tough situations with rescue before but nothing as horrific as this. I mean, I haven't been able to sleep because I keep having visions of that place to the fact that it's in New Jersey I can't believe we as a society people are still treating animals like this. I just didn't think that we were capable. And we are.

Now, I, personally, have never met Laurie and I don't think she has ever met me. I do, however, visit the farm with my daughter quite a bit and what she and her crew does is nothing short of miraculous.

A rather happy and large pig at Funny Farm Rescue in Mays Landing NJ - Photo: Chris Coleman
A rather happy and large pig at Funny Farm Rescue in Mays Landing NJ - Photo: Chris Coleman

But now they really need help.

We are not the rescue who begs for money every other day. In fact it is difficult for Laurie to say we need help at all but this situation is the worst we have ever seen and we are going to have to build new permanent houses and areas.

So here is how you can help.

  • You can visit the farm and see what they do. They're at 6908 Railroad Blvd. in Mays Landing. They're open Sundays and Tuesdays from 8 AM to 4 PM. Walk around, buy a few buckets of food, and feed the animals.
  • Checks payable to Funny Farm Rescue can also be mailed to 6908 Railroad Blvd., Mays Landing, NJ 08330.

Funny Farm Rescue is a 501(c)(3) charity, so many donations are tax deductible.

Thank you for supporting a great local organization and a huge thank you to everyone at Funny Farm for what you do every single day.

The public is reminded that charges are accusations and all persons are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

22 More Random Old South Jersey Pictures I Found on My Cell Phone

Let's go back in time and see if you remember any of these things in South Jersey.

More From WPG Talk Radio 95.5 FM