MINEOLA, Texas (KETK) — “I describe that place as a hell disguised as a haven,” said a former employee of Mini ‘S’ Exotic Zoo. 

An ex-employee is now speaking out about conditions inside the Mineola Mini ‘S’ Zoo.  

“The conditions were so bad that it wasn’t just the animals that I was concerned about, I was concerned about the health of myself and the other staff members,” she said. 

The employee said she was fired by the owner, Michelle Smith, on March 11, and said she and other former workers immediately reached out to the United States Department of Agriculture for Help. 

“I did file a complaint with the USDA. I sent time-dated, stamped pictures of injuries to animals that I know for sure did not get vet care,” she added. 

She said some problems included major rat infestations and improper cleaning of cages for the animals.  

“Cages were faulty which would lead to animals getting out,” the former employee said. “ So rusty that trays would fall out the bottom which would result in escapes.”  

Other photos and videos reportedly show numerous animals that needed immediate medical care that were left to suffer. Including a baby otter who she said was mutilated by the others and a monkey shown with a rotting leg that the former employee says was left to suffer for days without medical treatment.  

“It’s gut-wrenching. It’s sickening,” she said. 

The USDA report also stated a marmoset was let out of its enclosure which led to it being electrocuted in a rodent trap. The ex-employee said she found the dead animal and adds the owner is to blame. 

She also blames the USDA for not doing enough.  

“If she’s not going to find homes for these animals, she should at least be accountable for the things that she did,” added the former employee. 

When KETK News talked with a current employee, Mandy Miller, she said the owner, Michelle Smith, did in fact get the animals the help they needed.  

“I can say that Michelle was right on it. Getting them to the vet as soon as she knew about it,” said Miller. “ We’ve got vet records.” 

KETK News reached out to the zoo for a comment but has not heard back.