Federal authorities target Lazy 5 Ranch, owner defends practices

Local zoo hit with animal care violations

ROWAN COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - The owner of the Lazy 5 Ranch in Mooresville is defending his practices after a federal report accused the exotic animal park of failing to properly care for some of its animals.

The report by the USDA was filed in September, and it accused Lazy 5 owner Henry Hampton of 51 violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

The government action came after PETA filed a lawsuit against the USDA in May in which the organization challenged the USDA’s automatic renewal of Hampton’s license.

The twelve-page complaint also mentions The Farm at Walnut Creek, which is another property operated by Hampton in Ohio.

The thirteen specific examples cited at Lazy 5 Ranch in the complaint cover a period between 2015 and 2017.

Some of the allegations include inspectors finding a pregnant camel “whose breathing was audible and labored, that had swelling in the facial area and feet, and that had reddened and enlarged blood vessels in her left eye," and that members of the public were allowed to feed animals from their cars without an attendant being present.

"You look and see if you think the animals are cared for, " Hampton said. “To say lack of veterinary care is ridiculous.”

“It’s frustrating for us. I think there’s a hug lack of communication between USDA and Lazy 5, it’s something that we’ve been working extremely close with them on what their interpretation of their regulations, what their expectations are for us," said Sarah Rogers of Lazy 5. “The USDA actually mentioned to us and confirmed it wasn’t necessarily the lack of animal care, veterinary care, it was more the documentation which is what we’ve tried to maintain the whole process.”

Hampton also told WBTV on Wednesday that the animals at Lazy 5 are properly cared for, and that he and his staff have addressed each complaint.

“We could say none of this has basis,” Hampton said. “We just stayed out of it and let people that support us argue on our behalf and the people who don’t support us argue to the contrary. We could start a conversation and it would just get broader and go on and on.”

Sarah Rogers says that USDA conducted an inspection on Wednesday and that it was clean, and she says that was also the case on the previous inspection in March.

The USDA does not comment on pending cases, but PETA had strong words to say about the case.

“Again and again, Henry Hampton has denied sick animals veterinary care and left them to suffer without help, and his mile-long rap sheet of animal-welfare issues reflects that,” said PETA Foundation Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders in a press release. “PETA thanks authorities for finally taking action to hold Hampton accountable for years of Animal Welfare Act violations, and is calling on kind people to stay far away from his abusive operations.”

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