Canandaigua kangaroo owners: We have permits, we run an educational zoo, the animal is safe

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CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. (WROC) — Owners of “2 Barn Farm” in Canandaigua, Harlan Spollio and Tammy Sweet, spoke to News 8 to share their story on their mother kangaroo, Harper, and her newly born joey, Ryder.

The mother kangaroo spent two weeks at their home in Canandaigua while she was giving birth, ahead of their event in Canandaigua on Saturday, June 27.

Harper was eventually moved outside the city by Spollio and Sweet.

Harper, the new kangaroo mom

2 Barn Farm is company that hosts drive through zoo opportunities. They can take the animals safely on the road for events or birthday parties. They work with camels, turtles, horses, llamas, bulls, and of course, kangaroos.

They hosted their second event outside of Flowers by Stella on Rochester Road in Canandaigua this past weekend. Since it’s a drive-through zoo, it’s already social distancing compliant. The event also serves as a benefit; they donate some of the proceeds to area first responders.

Spollio and Sweet posing with another lovable joey, Sneak

However, during the weekend of June 20, a couple of children from Spollio and Sweet’s neighborhood discovered the kangaroo, and told their mom. That woman — Spollio and Sweet’s own neighbor — reported the animal to the city.

MORE | ‘Canandaigua kangaroo’ has been moved from outside the city

“The neighbor’s kids went prowling around in the yard, saw the kangaroo, let their parents know, the parents called the city,” Spollio said. “They were asking about permits, making a complaint about it, even though you couldn’t see it, smell it, or hear it.”

The city of Canandaigua confirmed that Spollio and Sweet had all of the proper licenses and permits to keep the kangaroo, and they allowed the kangaroo to be on the property, because the animal was giving birth.

“It’s not a birth as we know it,” Spollio said. “It’s more of a process, that’s why (Harper) was there. The joey pokes its head out a little, then it comes back in. Eventually it pokes out a little bit more, then it jumps out, then it needs to get back in.

“It’s just at that critical time to do that, and it was our intent to able to monitor it at home, and sadly we had to move it,” Spollio said. “We’re still monitoring it very carefully, very closely — but it would have been a lot easier to do it where we were originally.”

Ryder, the baby joey

However, shortly after, even after a conversation with Spollio that he describes as civil, the neighbor took video of their home and kangaroo without their consent, and began sharing false information and threats to release the animal on her social media.

“It’s when they got on Facebook, and started threatening us, threatening the kangaroo, releasing it, none of that is going to do anybody any good,” Spollio said.

Those posts on social media sparked a torrent of other posts from people living inside and outside of Canandaigua about a kangaroo on the loose, starting on Monday, June 21, according to Spollio.

In response, the city of Canandaigua posted this to their Facebook page the following day, saying in part:

The City is aware that there is a kangaroo that is a temporary resident in the backyard of a residence. The kangaroo is in good health and proper State permits are in hand by the owners.

Following another wave of social media outcry, Spollio and Sweet decided that they needed to move the kangaroo away from the home for its and their own safety, despite the animal’s vulnerability during its pregnancy.

“We didn’t want to do any interviews, we wanted this to blow over, figuring people would let it go when they realized there’s nothing really here,” Spollio said. “But we saw this as an opportunity to let people know that there are people who care, and we were pushed into a corner, and you can only push someone so far … We’re not doing anything wrong, we have all the licenses and permits, we’re here primarily for educational purposes, and to enlighten and inspire people about a variety of different animals.”

The event on June 27 was successful, as dozens of people lined up to see the animals, like longhorns, birds of prey, sheep, goats, alpacas, and even kangaroos.

While Harper and Ryder weren’t in attendance, the little joey Sneak was.

“The kids are loving it,” Sweet said at the event Saturday. “It’s also a little safety net for parents knowing that they can sit in the safety of their cars, but take pictures and have fun, and experience some animals.”

The zoo attendees could also get chicken barbecue, hot dogs and hamburgers, as well as ice cream at SCOOPS.

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