MINEOLA, Texas (KETK) – Mini ‘S’ Exotic Zoo in Mineola is closed to the public but offers encounters with nearly one-hundred animals. 

Recently, they have been dealing with federal officials investigating conditions at the zoo.  

“There’s always another side to another story,” said Mandy Miller, who works for the zoo. 

An April inspection by the United States Department of Agriculture revealed what they described as filthy and unsafe conditions for dozens of animals. 

“In between the first report that was done and the most recent report, there have been a lot of changes,” said Miller. 

According to Mini ‘S’ Exotic Zoo, the inspection came after an ex-employee-turned whistleblower alerted advocates about a lack of animal care at the facilities. 

The USDA conducted an investigation that found several violations at the zoo, including the death of a marmoset who was let out of an enclosure and was then electrocuted in a rat trap.  

Miller said the death of the animal was due to former employees not doing their job.  

“We weren’t aware of the situation later on which is obviously not a reflect on our facility here,” said Miller.

Michelle Smith, the owner, who has owned animals for over 30 years, is described by current employees as a loving and caring owner. 

“A lot of things were not being done to the standards of Michelle’s standards,” said Miller. “She does hold a high standard for her animals.”  

The report also details how several animals had been denied veterinarian care over some over a period of time.  

Miller told KETK that’s not true.  

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

Now, Miller says Smith and the rest of the zoo says they are in constant contact with the USDA with getting the facilities up to the standard for their animals.

“I hope that people will know that she is doing everything that she can as well as well as her other employees here and are working hard to get up to par with the USDA,” Miller says. 

The report asked for extensive cleaning of enclosures, proper training for employees and enough staff for the amount of animals they keep. 

Miller tells KETK the USDA took none of their animals away but they are working on decreasing the number of exhibits at the zoo.