MOUNT LAUREL — Mayor Irwin Edelson said the sudden closing of the Paws Discovery Farm has been handled in a "disgraceful" way that leaves the township with few options to get a new partner to run the educational site.

Kelly Lyons, director of the educational farm owned by Mt. Laurel Township, said in a statement posted on the farm's website on Tuesday the decision was made because the Garden State Discovery Museum decided to to ended its management contract and a new partner could not be found by the township.

“This decision was made with consideration to mounting financial costs, loss of sponsorship as well as the overall welfare of the animals and staff," Lyons wrote.

The farm will be open free of charge on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m, according to a post on the farm's Facebook page. It's the last day the farm will be open.

Edelson, in a statement to New Jesey 101.5, said the Garden State Discovery Museum closed the doors to the public on the farm in January and kept on a small staff to care for the 180 animals at the farm.

"If they gave us time we could probably find a new partner willing to operate the facility, but sadly they have backed the township into a corner and left little hope that we can keep the doors open," Edelson said.

Edelson said that the township does not have the financial resources to take on the responsibility to care for the farm's animals.

"It's disgraceful, the position they left us in," the mayor said.

The township did not get any qualified responses to its request for proposals to operate the farm, Township Manager Meredith Tomczyk said in an email.

According to a resolution passed at Tuesday night's town council meeting, the animals will be rehoused at the Barnyard Sanctuary, Space Farm, the Cape May Zoo and Rizzo's Wildlife World. The animals range from horses, donkeys and alpacas to sheep, chinchillas and snakes.

An online petition to keep it open has gathered over 3,000 signatures.

The land has been a farm since 1782 and an educational farm and nature center since 1979, according to the petition.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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