- Associated Press - Thursday, August 4, 2016

BEECHER, Ill. (AP) - As owner of the only exotic animal shelter in Illinois, Airocolina Janota is currently caring for and housing about 500 animals.

The 53-year-old runs Settlers Pond in Beecher with her husband, the Daily Southtown (http://trib.in/2allbKU ) reported. The couple and eight volunteers take care of everything from goats, tortoises, chicken, mice, kangaroos, porcupines and alpaca.

“There is no such thing as a typical day out here,” said Roseanne Grages, who tends to the shelter’s primates. “Some days are real laid back, other days, it’s 11 at night and we’re looking at each other like, ‘Oh wow, we’re still going.’”

The animals make their way to Settlers Pond through Animal Control, an owner drop-off or word of mouth.

Janota said she has seen an influx of pot belly pigs since March because owners no longer want them after they’ve grown.

“Pot belly pigs have been the rage lately,” she said. “So now we have 20-some pot belly pigs - all that have come in since March. They’re big, they’re fat, they’re destructive. Nobody wants them after they get big.”

The shelter recently took in 150 animals from the shuttered Riegel Farm in University Park. Janota said that about half of those have been adopted.

Settlers Pond has nonprofit status and relies on donations and fundraisers, particularly a pumpkin festival in the fall. But Janota said a good portion of the feed, $75 a day for hay and $400 a month for grain, comes from her husband’s salary. Rolly Janota has worked at Commonwealth Edison for 45 years.

Airocolina Janota said that she has tried to treat each animal well over the years. She is currently looking for a looking for a zoo to take the porcupines. She treats raccoons, opossums and dogs for diseases such as distemper. And she rescued the shelter’s primates from a situation involving cosmetic testing.

“We just want to make a difference,” she said.

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Information from: Southtown Star, http://southtownstar.chicagotribune.com/

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