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There was a farmer who had a dog ... and 600 other animals

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There’s one place this Cinco de Mayo where people can feed the animals instead of their faces.

For the lucky 600 plus animals at Funny Farm Rescue in Mays Landing, Spring Festival 2024 will summon guests that will feed, pet and, most importantly, donate money for their care.

The annual festival is the biggest fundraiser of the year for Laurie Zaleski's Funny Farm. 

Look for wagon rides, face painting and music. Plus there will be craft and food vendors. But the big attraction is the animals themselves that kindly let patrons talk to them, feed, take selfies with and pet.

When you visit the Funny Farm, you will be greeted by dogs, donkeys and the official Funny Farm Geese Police Department. You can purchase feed buckets at the general store on the property for $4 that are filled with veggies all your new furry/feathered friends are allowed to eat. It’s affordable and fun. 

      At the Funny Farm Rescue and Sanctuary, animals of all species get along like brothers and sisters.

I think the last time I visited, I bought three rounds. I would budget for a bucket or two for each member of your party. You’re going to want to do this.

Pro Tip: If you have an extra bag of apples or carrots in your fridge, surplus from your garden or pet food that you won’t be using, you can donate it to the farm. All you have to do is bring your donation to the general store. You can even exchange your donated items for a free feed bucket and enjoy feeding the animals.

What is the Funny Farm? The short answer is, it’s a promise. Zaleski’s mother always wanted an animal rescue. So her daughter made her one.

Although her mother passed away before the Funny Farm came to full fruition, her spirit lives on at the property. The name of the property is even a homage to Zaleski’s mother, Anne McNulty. since she casually referred to her menagerie of rescues as her “funny farm”.

McNulty also lives on in policies of the farm. 

Since money was always a struggle for Anne growing up, the Funny Farm will always be a free resource for anyone who wants to enjoy it. Parking and entry will always be complimentary.

This award-winning rescue relies on devoted volunteers and donations. 

Some are just a buck or two in the wooden box at the front gate. Some are from fresh eggs sales from the cooler at the entrance. But all donations go straight to the care and feeding of the hundreds of animals that call the farm home.

So, who is this dynamo graphic designer turned animal activist extraordinaire? 

Laurie Zalenski answered some questions for Breaking AC in between farm chores, work and getting ready for Sunday’s festivities. 

      Laurie and Nemo, a goat abandoned by his family now lives the most amazing life at the Funny Farm.

If you missed her writeups in People and The Washington Post — or have yet to read her book aptly titled "Funny Farm – My Life with 600 Rescue Animals" — you can get to know Laurie now.

BreakingAC: What was your first pet?

Laurie Zalenski: A dog named Wolf was my very first pet from the original Funny Farm. My mom got him as a security system because we were getting robbed so often. He became my best friend.

BAC: What was your first official farm rescue animal?

LZ: A horse that no one thought would survive. His name was Shannon. Despite the vet’s recommendation to euthanize, he survived with lots of love and kindness.

BAC: Do you have any favorites?

LZ: Of course. But I would never talk about it. Some of the special needs animals create a special bond such as my dog Tucker who has megaesophagus.

      Laurie and her first megaesophagus dog. Chucky. Vets said he would not live more than six months. He lived a great life for more than five years.

BAC: What do you do on your day off?

LZ:  I work a full-time job in addition to running one of the largest animal rescues in the northeast. If I ever get an hour to myself, I love driving my motorcycle or flying my small Cessna aircraft.

BAC: What do you need from your community for support?

LZ: People can donate online at or in person. We operate entirely by donations. If anyone wants to volunteer, they can sign up on our website and spend an hour or all day. We are so appreciative of any donations or support we receive. We also have a wish list we post each Friday on the Funny Farm Rescue’s Facebook Page if people would rather donate items.

      Like most of the Funny Farm's rescues, Socks the horse is very friendly.

BAC: Why is your work important?

LZ: When you do something that helps another person or animal, it brings incredible rewards. After literally thousands of animals have been saved over the years, each one means so much to me, And I know they have great lives. Animals that once had little or no hope, now live the most incredible lives ever!

BAC: What is the five-year plan for the farm?

LZ: We have so many future plans including adding to our community garden, building new pens and fenced-in areas for goats and other animals. We are installing two renovated ponds for our hundreds of waterfowl as well as expanding Goat Town to accommodate many other breeds.

      Laurie and Stormie, a beautiful horse she rescued from Chicago. Volunteers drove around the clock to get him safely to the Funny Farm.

BAC: What gets you out of bed when it's cold outside or you don't feel well to get up and care for the animals?

LZ: Knowing these animals have to eat and cannot feed themselves keeps me going. For most of my life, I did it all myself. Now, I have many volunteers I can rely on. People help because they feel needed by the animals. So many people say the Funny Farm rescues animals and saves people. It gives them a sense of purpose.

BAC: If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing?

LZ: I always said I would be living in Philly with my friends drinking cappuccino and traveling the world. But in reality, I can’t imagine doing anything else. Many people have hopes and dreams and never do anything to make them actually come true. In my case, I’m living my dream.

BAC: Tell us about the festival?

LZ: The Funny Farm Spring Festival is one of the largest fundraisers of the year. With feed costs over $10,000 per month, every penny counts. Nothing is wasted. All of the volunteers and community come together to make a great event. We have crafters, vendors, live music, hayrides, face painting, feedings, a basket raffle and tons of family fun activities all to help the animals at the Funny Farm.

BAC: What are some major pet (pun intended) peeves you have concerning humans visiting or volunteering?

LZ: Speeding on the farm. Animals come out of all directions and our speed limit is 1 mph. People who bring their own dogs and think it’s a dog park. Our animals protect each other and would think your dog is an intruder. People who drop off animals at the gate without permission. Not only is it illegal, but it’s also cruel. We may not be prepared or have room. 

      Joey is named after Laurie’s lifelong friend, Joe Petruzzi, who was loved by everyone at the farm. He passed suddenly of AML leukemia.

BAC: Do you have any certifications or trainings that help you care for the animals?

LZ: I’m a graduate of the Helen Woodward Business of Saving Lives program, the New Jersey Veterinarians Association Animal Rescue Certification and numerous first aide certifications. I have close relationships with many veterinarians who help regularly on the farm.

BAC: How does your "day job" fit in with busy rescue life?

LZ: I need a place to relax. It’s a good balance. I would have more compassion fatigue if I didn’t have a normal working relationship with many of my employees. I am a professional photographer and graphic designer.

BAC: What's something no interviewer has asked you that you think they should have?

LZ: I’ve been asked just about everything you can imagine. But I would say, “What is my internal motivation to keep going when there are so many awful animal rescue stories?” I would say just saving that one animal at a time and giving them the best life possible.

BAC: Do you have anything else to add?

LZ: We have a Kindness Program. One of the most important things we do is give back. I have three children’s books where we teach kindness through real animal stories from the Funny Farm. We go to schools. Schools come to the farm. We teach that if all of these different species at the Funny Farm can get along, so can they.

      Laurie has four Critter Camps each summer, when she teaches kids all about animals and how to treat them with kindness.

If you go to the festival, remember to leave your non-service animals at home, wear close-toed shoes and select an outfit that can sustain dirt and animal kisses. Their website is comprehensive and contains everything you need to know about the farm.

If you can’t make it this Sunday, you can even donate or sponsor a particular animal via the website. Plus, you can watch Zalenski’s live stream every Sunday on the rescue’s Facebook page.

Spring Festival 2024 is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 5 at 6908 Railroad Blvd in Mays Landing. Check out their comprehensive website to learn all about the farm, the people and the animals involved.


Michelle Tomko

Michelle Tomko is a classically trained performer with a bachelor in fine arts, a five-time winner of Atlantic City Weekly’s Nightlife Award for “Best Comedian,” a North to Shore grantee and a Stories of Atlantic City Arts fellow. She is also an accomplished home chef with years of restaurant, catering, bartending, wine and cocktail experience.

Sunday, May 19, 2024
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