Meet the Ray Temple’s exotic animals

By Zach Armstrong

PRINCE GEORGE, Va -- Locals to Central Virginia can spot many different types of animals, but ones often native to the region. One day, when Maria Jenkins was in the Disputanta area, she spotted an animal native to Australia and known to be the second-largest living bird in the world by height heading across the treeline.

According to Jenkins, when she spotted the animal she thought of the Liberty Insurance commercial which features “Doug” along with “Limu Emu”.

Jenkins had spotted one of many exotic animals which belong to Prince George native

Mitchell Ray Temple who will buy, sell and trade them to anyone from safari parks to those who are interested in owning their own interesting pet.

On Temple’s little farm located in Disputanta, there are 15 emus, 100 sheep, 40 goats, 100 chickens, 20 pigs, six cattle, 500 pigeons, 100 ducks, 20 guinea fowls, ten turkeys, nine donkeys, a dozen pet dogs and eight cats.

Taking care of all these animals has proven to be a daunting task for Temple and his assistant who will both get to work at 6 a.m., spending the day watering and feeding the animals in addition to taking care of the farm before they return home at 4 p.m. everyday.

Temple will often take some of his animals out to auction off but mainly gets his business from the approximately 100 customers a week who come for fresh eggs or to purchase one of the animals. Some of the animals Temple will either receive through trade or purchase to raise since they are babies.

Many locals will stop by (which Temple welcomes) to get a closer look at the animals once they catch sight of them from the road. Many who come to Temple’s farm had visited as children with their parents and now come to bring their children.

When asked if he’d ever be interested in converting his farm into a petting zoo of his own, Temple laughs and says “to be honest, I’m too busy, but plenty of families come by to look at the animals anyway,”

Temple has had a love of animals from an early age. He was raised in a two-story farmhouse adjacent to the house he currently resides in. Growing up, his family’s farm had cattle, pigs, rabbits, chickens and a cow.

Though he raised and sold animals from his farm throughout his life, Temple would spend nine years working at a chemical plant before working at Benjamin Moore Paint factory for 15 years. After working at the paint factory, Temple made selling and trading his animals a full-time gig.

“I've always loved animals and I realized as I got older I could have as many as I want, then it turned into a business,” said Temple. “I rescue animals, doctor them, vaccinate them and help others’ animals as well,”

Although the Emu Jenkins had spotted had jumped the fence (and at the time of this writing, still on the loose in Prince George), Temple says it's seldom his animals will disturb the community.

“I’m friends with animal control, I know the neighbors, it's not bothering them,” said Temple. “If you just let them stay where they’re at, they’ll calm down (referring to the Emus), but if you chase them they'll go farther and farther at about 30 miles per hour,”

The hospitality of the local community towards Temple and his animals had been proven three years ago when his house caught on fire and Temple himself suffered severe burns all across his body. The event had put Temple in a coma for seven days.

Luckily, no animals were harmed and his house was rebuilt in no time. While Temple was in the hospital recovering, Animal Control along with his personal friends had taken care of the farm by supplying feed and running the hoses for his animals.

Temple’s farm is located at 13920 Arwood Road in Disputanta, VA 23842. He can be reached at 804-356-7857. His animals are for sale and he doesn’t mind those who wish to visit simply to observe the fascinating creatures.