BONNE TERRE — Ronnie Sipp has always enjoyed being around animals.
He grew up and lived on a farm all his life. His started collecting animals when he was 9 — chickens, ducks and geese.
“It grew from there,” said Ronnie, a former law enforcement officer who owns Critter Lane Pet Store in downtown Bonne Terre. That store opened in 1998.
Ronnie opened Critter Lane Petting Zoo, a USDA-inspected, 10-acre petting zoo on Route Y on Aug. 11. There are about 75 animals from all over the world, which visitors can see in a self-guided tour.
The petting zoo, located three miles off Route Y from US 67, is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $5 a person. For more information, call 573-358-8995 or find them on Facebook.
There’s a goat village where children can spend time petting and feeding the goats. Robbie Sipp, who works with his brother at the petting zoo, said it is funny to watch when a bunch of children feed the goats.
There’s also a parakeet house where guests can feed the parakeets.
There’s chickens, ducks, swans, geese, doves, camels, donkeys, cattle, ponies, and even a white buffalo. There’s addax, rheas, alpacas, a llama, antelope, four-horned sheep, aoudad sheep, and koi fish under the bridge.
There are several types of deer including a red deer, a new fallow deer and a pere david deer which originates from China, but is extinct there now, Ronnie said.
“Camels are like big dogs,” he said. “They are my favorite.”
At one time he had nine dromedary camels.
One of the sweetest animals is Jackson the Zeedonk. He’s half zebra, half donkey — brown with black stripes. His white and brown legs have the most visible stripes.
Guests can either purchase food for the animals by the bag in the gift/concessions shop or for a quarter at various feed machines in the park. There are several places in the park for guests to wash their hands after petting the animals.
Camel rides and pony rides are available, too, $5 a person.
Most of the animals are in pens with plenty of room to move around. Most love all the attention they are getting and will greet their new friends eagerly. Children are encouraged to greet the animals, especially donkeys, with flat hands so the animals won’t munch on their hands.
In cages are a few guinea pigs and prairie dogs, a tegu lizard, a chinchilla, cavies, a bearded dragon, and even Al the alligator.
If the children should tire of the animals, there’s an arrowhead hunting area where children can pick up a shovel and dig for arrowheads that the Sipps have buried there. Ronnie said that area has been a real hit. There’s also a bounce house.
Soon, they will add a straw maze and a pumpkin patch.
The park is available for rent after hours for birthday parties. Ronnie said they’ve already had groups of disabled individuals visit.
Ronnie hopes to add more pens with even more animals in the near future.
Teresa Ressel is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 179 or at email@example.com.