NC farm will pay $20K fine over animal care

Read the original article by charlotteobserver.com here.

A popular North Carolina exotic-animals farm and its companion attraction in Ohio have agreed to pay a fine to resolve federal charges over the care of their sheep, goats, giraffes and other animals, federal records show.

Lazy 5 Ranch, east of Mooresville in Rowan County, and The Farm at Walnut Creek in Sugarcreek, Ohio, “willfully violated the federal Animal Welfare Act 50 times since 2013, the federal government charged in a 2018 complaint, The Charlotte Observer previously reported.

The attractions failed to treat some animals for serious health conditions and to provide clean water for others, according to the complaint by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Henry Hampton, who owns Lazy 5 and the Ohio attraction, admitted to none of the charges in agreeing in March to pay a $20,000 fine, according to a federal administrative law judge’s order signed by Hampton.

“We did not admit to anything,” Hampton told the Observer in a phone interview Wednesday. “And the reason we settled was because if we went through the hearing process, it would take four to five years, and to let that mess drag on that long is wrong.”

Hampton said he will issue a longer, more detailed statement to the Observer and on Facebook in the next day or so.

When the USDA filed its complaint against the attractions last year, Lazy 5 officials issued this statement: “According to very recent comments from the USDA, there has never been a problem with the actual care of our animals, but rather our documentation and record keeping.“

That image was at odds with the allegations in the 2018 federal complaint.

Lazy 5 is a well-known, long-time regional family destination. The city of Charlotte lists Lazy 5 on its “Charlotte’s Got A Lot” tourism-related website.

The complaint in part said Lazy 5 “failed to obtain veterinary care” for animals, including for Mary the giraffe’s “overgrown, misshapen rear inside hooves,” a Sika deer’s “multiple wounds to the right side of its body” and for three Aoudad sheep’s limps, the Observer previously reported. Two federal inspections in 2017 found those conditions, according to the complaint.

A 2015 inspection found a pregnant camel “whose breathing was audible and labored, that had swelling in the facial area and feet, and that had reddened enlarged blood vessels in her left eye,” according to the complaint.

The 2015 inspection also found a female Mouflon sheep “in the drive-through area that had a head bob and an irregular gait, and was limping,” the complaint states.

During federal inspections in 2016 and 2017, visitors were seen feeding animals from their cars without a Lazy 5 attendant present. During a heavy rain in 2017, “inadequate shelter” was provided for “several sheep, goats, lambs and kids.”

In their statement emailed to the Observer in response to the 2018 federal complaint, Lazy 5 Ranch and The Farm at Walnut Creek also said they had worked “with the USDA to discuss their past interpretation of regulations and our future working relationship …

“We have received two ‘No non-compliant items’ inspection reports in March 2018 and today, October 17, 2018,” according to the statement. “As always, we encourage our visitors to come and visit the animals and ask our staff if there are any questions or concerns.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals revealed the federal complaint in an October 2018 news release.

“A $20,000 penalty is a step, but the only way to stop animals from suffering at Henry Hampton’s hands is to stop renewing his license to exhibit them,” PETA Foundation official Delcianna Winders said in a statement Wednesday.

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