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Florida school seeks donations to replace fencing after 29 show animals killed

LAKE WALES, Fla. (WFLA) — When Jennifer Williams got to her Lake Wales, Florida, school Thursday morning, it was not a pretty sight. The agriculture instructor and Future Farmers of America (FFA) advisor said what she saw looked like “a massacre.”

“There were just dead rabbits everywhere, dead chickens everywhere,” said the Bok Academy North teacher. “It was unreal.”

Earlier that morning, three dogs dug a hole under a fence and got into an area known as the “Land Lab” at the school. It’s where students and staff house dozens of show animals, including rabbits, chickens, ducks, turkeys, goats, pigs and cattle.

(Courtesy of Jennifer Williams)

FFA students help breed and raise the animals and then show them at youth fairs.

“A lot of the kids, because they’re from a more city area, they’re not around animals,” said Williams. “They bond better with the chickens and the rabbits because they’re smaller.”

The dogs were able to tear open the rabbit cages and get into the chicken coop.

Although a custodian was able to scare away the dogs before they could enter a nearby duck enclosure, 29 rabbits and chickens had already been killed.

Two rabbits stayed safe inside a wooden enclosure.

“I’ve never seen dogs just randomly attack a chicken in the middle of the school. There’s fence and everything. I thought it would stop them but obviously it didn’t,” said Zibe Stein, an eighth grader and president of the Bok Academy North FFA.

According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the dogs were cur and cur mixes who belong to two next door neighbors. Both neighbors were cited for allowing their dogs to illegally roam.

Polk County Animal Control spotted the dogs laying down in an intersection but ultimately lost sight of them. As of Friday afternoon, they had not been located.

(Courtesy of Jennifer Williams)

Meanwhile, students and staff at Bok Academy North are trying to recover from the incident as their hopes for a successful youth fair season next year are likely dashed.

“There’s rules at the different fairs of age limits for animals, so they have to be a certain age before they can show. Any chickens we get now that are new chickens — they wouldn’t be able to show because they wouldn’t be quite old enough yet,” said Williams. “We’ll have a lot of kids that won’t be able to show poultry because they were all killed.”

Most of the surviving animals are being housed off property while the school works on improving safety measures.

Williams said the school is accepting donations for new, sturdier fencing and housing enclosures. Anyone interested in pitching in can contact Williams at the school at (863) 232-4665.

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