Privately-owned Franksville zoo asks for donations: 'All of our income is gone'

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FRANKSVILLE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A privately-owned zoo in Racine County is asking for donations after the owners say, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, they've been stripped of all of their income.

Jo-Don Farms has been in southeastern Wisconsin for more than four decades. But now Vice President Alexaundria Meyer said the zoo is currently only surviving off donations.

"We started in 1975 and made a promise to every animal here that we will do everything we can to make their lives better. Most of the animals here came as a rescue. It's hard to keep that promise when most -- actually all -- of our income is gone," Meyer said.

The zoo had to lay off all of its staff and currently only has volunteers maintaining the zoo and farm, and taking care of the animals.

Jo-Don Farms usually opens to the public on May 1, but Gov. Tony Evers' order prevents the zoo from being able to open until at least May 26. Right now, Meyer said she hopes to open up on June 1.

All year long, the zoo typically offers many off-site jobs, including pony and camel rides at birthday parties, wedding receptions and other events.

"With COVID-19, we've lost about $50,000 worth of our work between off-site jobs and... not being able to open for one of our six months here," Meyer said.

She has applied for Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP loans, and also created a GoFundMe page to help keep the lights on at the zoo.

"Our utilities will be shut off unlike a residential (home.) If you're commercial, they will turn you off," Meyer said.

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