Jim Mack's Ice Cream gives up animal menagerie

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch


Nearly three years after giving up black-bear mascot "Little Ricki," Jim Mack's Ice Cream in Hellam Township has relinquished the rest of its animal menagerie.

Twenty-five animals are now living in animal sanctuaries or at the York County SPCA, according to a spokeswoman with the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

"No animal should have to suffer to be an attraction at an ice cream shop," said Matthew Liebman, ALDF's director of litigation. "There's definitely a trend toward people seeing animals as individual beings with unique needs and no longer as spectacles for human entertainment."

Neither ice cream shop owner Jim McDaniel Jr. nor his attorney could be reached for comment Monday, Nov. 20. But in June, McDaniel told The York Dispatch his animals were cared for daily and received regular veterinary attention.

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

The York County SPCA took in three goats, seven rabbits, five chickens and a goose, according to Executive Director Melissa Smith.

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

The goats, goose and chickens are now available for adoption, she said, and the seven rabbits — mother, father and five baby bunnies — will all be available for adoption after the babies are old enough and all seven have been spayed and neutered.

A llama, two alpacas and two emus went to Chenoa Manor on Saturday, Nov. 19, according to ALDF spokeswoman Natalia Lima. That's an animal sanctuary in Avondale, Chester County.

And four peacocks went to Indraloka Animal Sanctuary in Mehoopany, Wyoming County, Lima said.

Locals speak out: Last summer, York resident Bretina Greiman started an online petition to force McDaniel to give up his remaining animals to sanctuaries. As of Monday, Nov. 20, the petition had more than 18,000 signatures.

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)

But what prompted McDaniel to relinquish the rest of his menagerie was an alleged violation of a settlement agreement made with ALDF in 2015 that arranged for the relocation of a black bear now simply known as Ricki.

"We were contacted by a few people in York who were concerned," Liebman said. "They went out and took pictures and video. We agreed there were issues."

Issues included a possible breach of the settlement agreement, in which McDaniel agreed not to obtain new animals at the ice cream shop and not to keep exotic animals. In Pennsylvania, peacocks are considered exotic animals, according to Liebman.

In addition to threatening to sue McDaniel for breach of settlement, ALDF also was prepared to sue him for allegedly housing animals in inhumane conditions, Liebman said.

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)

'Not a good idea': He said ALDF received reports from York-area residents that the animals' food and water supply was inadequate and that the animals could be hand-fed by the public (animal chow was dispensed in gumball dispensers).

"We got enough reports and frequently enough that it was determined it was just not a good idea for there to be captive animals there anymore," Liebman said.

Tony Eliseuson, senior staff attorney for ALDF, said McDaniel has entered into a new agreement with the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

"He has agreed not to possess any animals at the (ice cream shop) in the future," Eliseuson said. "No animals — period."

Some of the animals were relocated a week ago, and the rest were moved Saturday to sanctuaries, "where they'll have a better life," Eliseuson said.

Ricki, the former mascot for Jim Mack's Ice Cream in Hellam Twp., is slowly exploring the 15-acre habitat she shares with several other black bears, according to staff members at The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado.
(Photo by Liz Evans Scolforo)

He confirmed that of the people who complained to ALDF about the conditions of animals at Jim Mack's Ice Cream last summer, some also had alerted ALDF in 2015 to the plight of Little Ricki, who spent 16 years at the ice cream shop.

Ricki's big move: In February 2015, the black bear now known simply as Ricki was taken from Jim Mack's and moved to The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado.

Ricki's Colorado home is a different kind of animal sanctuary

Now about 21 years old, Ricki is about to turn in for the winter and is thriving in her new home, according to The Wild Animal Sanctuary. To see a recent photo and update about her, go to www.wildanimalsanctuary.org, click on "Read or subscribe to our newsletter online," choose the Winter 2017 newsletter and turn to pages 18-19.

The sanctuary reported that she enjoys daily swims in her multi-acre enclosure and is thriving in an environment where she's not on public display.

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

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

Jim Mack's still has miniature golf, basketball hoops, an arcade, small rides for little kids and a number of picnic tables for customers.

Volunteers are unsung heroes at Ricki's sanctuary

For more information about the Animal Legal Defense Fund, visit aldf.org online.

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