The ducks penned near a dumpster at Miromar Outlets stir controversy
By Samantha Roesler
Miromar Outlets in Estero is facing backlash concerning the ducks used to entertain shoppers.
The nine Pekin ducks Miromar Outlets owns are brought out to the mall’s fountains from Wednesday-Sunday for their shoppers to look at and enjoy, according to Miromar Outlets Vice President Jeffery Staner.
When the ducks are not entertaining visitors, they’re penned next to a garbage compactor behind the outlet mall.
The SWFL community started speaking up against this issue when Vik Chhabra created the “Save the Miromar Ducks” Facebook page in late September. Chhabra has seen the ducks at Miromar for years.
“I would notice the ducks at the fountains a while back when I was with my kid and then about three years ago when I was on my way to Starbucks and saw where they are kept I was like ‘Really? This is where you keep them?’” Chhabra said. “You get to this point where you just want to do the right thing and want to focus on what people are doing wrong.”
Cat Chase became aware of the issue through Chhabra’s Facebook page and decided to take a look at the ducks herself.
“I wasn’t a big fan of how they are living and what they look like,” Chase said. “Even if they were beautiful and pristine ducks, that’s not how they should be living.” Chase explained how some Miromar security officers were quick to get her away from the pen. “I was at the dumpster for less than ten minutes when security came and told me I needed to get out,” Chase said.
Instead of attracting shoppers to the mall, the ducks are now doing the opposite – turning shoppers away.
“It makes me very hesitant to shop there,” Chase said. “I’m sure it’s really unfortunate for people that work there.”
Andy Minoie is the store manager at the Starbucks in Miromar and sees the ducks regularly when he works – not by choice.
“I hate taking the trash out because I see those ducks,” Minoie said. “They’re dirty and covered in algae. Also, I feel like they might be emotionally scarred because every time I grab the hose to clean the garbage, they run away. It seems like how their pen is cleaned scares them.”
The mall recently set down turf in the pen for the ducks along with new bedding. “Ever since the petition circulated Facebook, they put grass down,” Minoie said. “But that doesn’t make it better.”
Florida Rescue Farm is a nonprofit animal shelter that has recognized the situation and agreed to take the ducks if Miromar decides to give them up. “If Miromar wants to re-home them, we are here to adopt them and that’s fine,”Florida Rescue Farm Vice President Glenn Maresca said. “It’s Miromar’s decision. We don’t judge, our angle is that we help animals.”
If the ducks were to be brought to Florida Rescue Farm, they would only be penned at night.
“Our ducks, chicken and geese free range all day long from sun-up to sundown,” Florida Rescue Farm President Kelly McCormick said. “We know our enclosure is done well because they want to go back in at night.”
McCormick and Maresca emphasized that the community can put the energy generated from this local issue and use it to impact problems on a bigger scale.
“It is easy to see the ducks and be concerned about them, but out of sight out of mind,” McCormick said. “There are animals that are living in horrible conditions, so it would be great to take this energy and put it towards better regulating farm animals.”
Chhabra created a petition on Change.org around a month ago and it has gotten over 1,000 signatures and media attention from local news stations. “I didn’t expect it to get that much traction,” Chhabra said. “I just wanted it documented that the ducks are in these conditions and see what happens.”
Besides signing the petition, people like Chase personally reached out to Miromar voicing their opinion on the situation, but it proved difficult to get a response.
“I called them a couple times and the first person will be like ‘Okay let me put you on hold’ and then I’ll get hung up on, so they won’t actually address it,” Chase said. “They are definitely recognizing that this is all happening. They aren’t blind to it.”
Despite the negative attention Miromar Outlets is facing, the development is not planning on changing the pen to a different location. “We have had Lee County Domestic Animal Control out several times for inspections and have never found any issues with the health or living conditions of the ducks,” Miromar Outlets Vice President Jeffrey Staner said.
“It’s the perfect example of how we’re treating the environment and how humans don’t care anymore,” Chhabra said. “I just want the good side to do the right thing and in this day and age it’s getting harder and harder to do that. Can we get the mall to do the right thing? That’s the gist of it.”