Owner of Jim Mack's Ice Cream says animals treated well

Liz Evans Scolforo

An online petition targeting Jim Mack's Ice Cream in Hellam Township alleges animals there are being mistreated, but owner Jim McDaniel said they are cared for daily and receive regular veterinary attention.

It's the same ice cream shop and roadside attraction that relinquished Ricki the black bear to a Colorado wildlife sanctuary more than two years ago.

An alpaca at Jim Mack's Ice Cream in Hellam Township waits near a vending machine on Thursday, June 8, 2017, to see if a food handout is coming.
(Liz Evans Scolforo photo)

On Monday night, a York College student posted photos of some of Jim Mack's animals on Facebook and raised concerns they were not being fed enough. She wants to remain anonymous.

After seeing that post, Bretina Greiman of York went to Jim Mack's on Wednesday, then started a petition at change.org to have the York County SPCA investigate the condition of the animals at the 5745 Lincoln Highway business.

"The animals had ... a dirt and mud caking on them," she said. "As I walked to the food, they were all rushing to it. It's almost like they have to fight over the food."

She and the Facebook poster both said water in the animals' water supply was dirty.

What owner says: But McDaniel said the animals' water bowls and pools are changed twice a day and that they have plenty to eat.

On Thursday afternoon, an enclosure housing two alpacas, four goats, a goose and Cassie the llama contained four water bowls and two kiddie pools — all filled — plus six food bowls and two long feeding troughs, which were empty. There also were two bales of hay in the enclosure for the animals to graze on.

An alpaca at Jim Mack's Ice Cream in Hellam Township munches on hay on Thursday, June 8, 2017.
(Liz Evans Scolforo photo)

There's a shed in the enclosure, and they also have access to a large stand of bamboo, which McDaniel pointed out provides the animals a source of near-constant shade. When new bamboo shoots sprout, the animals eat them, he said, adding that goats will eat just about anything.

McDaniel said the food bowls were empty because the animals are fed by their caretaker in the morning. They are given all-stock feed, he said. That is a dry pellet food for mixed herds of farm animals.

"There's dog-food pellets and corn in the (vending) machines for the public to feed them," he said. "But that's not their food."

Ricki the ice cream bear on journey to become ... herself

The machines are gumball machines that dispense a small handful of kibble or corn for a quarter. McDaniel said people also insist on feeding the animals french fries, ice cream and other human food, despite signs warning them it's illegal.

"Little kids love to see the animals and to feed them," McDaniel said.

Emus, bunnies: Jim Mack's also has two emus, a male and a female, that are now in an enclosure by themselves. That's because the goats pulled out some of the female emu's feathers, he said — which was another concern raised by the Facebook poster.

A pygmy goat scratches his back and rubs his horns on a wooden spool at Jim Mack's Ice Cream in Hellam Township on Thursday, June 8, 2017.
(Liz Evans Scolforo photo)

Two rabbits have Ricki the bear's former chain-link enclosure, and a peahen (that's a female peacock) and her five chicks are in a large chain-link enclosure by themselves. The peacock was separated from them because he killed a chick last year, McDaniel said.

Cassie the llama — who's been at Jim Mack's for more than 20 years — and the alpacas received their annual shearing Wednesday, according to McDaniel. Both Greiman and the Facebook poster saw the animals before the shearing was done.

None of the animals have visible ribs or appear to be underweight.

McDaniel said an SPCA employee advised him to change the animals' water three times a day, which he's doing.

SPCA investigating: Melissa Smith, executive director of the York County SPCA, confirmed their Humane Society police officer visited Jim Mack's on Tuesday and that she gave him instructions on "water maintenance."

Two alpacas and a goat wait for humans to feed them at Jim Mack's Ice Cream in Hellam Township on Thursday, June 8, 2017.
(Liz Evans Scolforo photo)

The officer returned Wednesday and determined the situation had improved, according to Smith.

Smith declined further comment while the SPCA investigation is ongoing.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission had already been planning a routine inspection of the facility, press secretary Travis Lau said.

That's because the ice cream shop's state-required menagerie permit for its two emus will expire at the end of the month. Before the permit can be renewed, an inspection must be done to ensure McDaniel is complying with caging, health and sanitary requirements, Lau said. The game commission also oversaw McDaniel's former permit for Ricki the bear.

Lau confirmed that over the years, Jim Mack's has had some issues with permit compliance but said once those were pointed out, McDaniel fixed them.

Customers supportive: As McDaniel showed a reporter around the property, a smiling customer walked by, patted him on the shoulder and teased him about making sure he was changing the animals' water.

"She must have seen the (post) on social media," he said after she strolled past. "All of the regular customers are behind me."

A goat lies in the shade next to a water bowl in its enclosure at Jim Mack's Ice Cream in Hellam Township on Thursday, June 8, 2017.
(Liz Evans Scolforo photo)

McDaniel said customers who have concerns about the health or treatment of his animals can ask to speak with him and opined that with the advent of social media, such allegations spread quickly, whether they are true or not.

"The animals are in the public eye. People are looking at them every day," he said, so it would be stupid for him to neglect them.

In addition to the animals, Jim Mack's also has miniature golf, basketball hoops, an arcade, small rides for little kids and a number of picnic tables for customers. On Thursday, nearly everything there appeared to have been freshly painted and well maintained.

McDaniel said his father built the ice cream shop and roadside attraction in 1958. He bought the business from his father in 1983, he said.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.

A college student who asked to remain anonymous took this photo of a female emu, which is missing feathers, at Jim Mack's Ice Cream in Hellam Twp. Owner Jim McDaniel said goats pulled out the emu's feathers, leading him to separate the two emus from the goats in June 2017.
(Liz Evans Scolforo photo)