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Lazy 5 Ranch cited for injured animals, expired drugs

Preschoolers from Woodhill Elementary in Gastonia feed giraffes at Lazy 5 Animal Ranch near Mooresville during a March 2008 visit. The popular attraction agreed in March 2019 to pay a $20,000 fine to resolve a 2018 federal complaint over animal care. Lazy 5 admitted no wrongdoing and agreed to pay the fine only to avoid a years-long federal hearing, owner Henry Hampton told The Charlotte Observer.
Preschoolers from Woodhill Elementary in Gastonia feed giraffes at Lazy 5 Animal Ranch near Mooresville during a March 2008 visit. The popular attraction agreed in March 2019 to pay a $20,000 fine to resolve a 2018 federal complaint over animal care. Lazy 5 admitted no wrongdoing and agreed to pay the fine only to avoid a years-long federal hearing, owner Henry Hampton told The Charlotte Observer. OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

The Lazy 5 Ranch, a drive-through zoo in Rowan County that attracts thousands of people each year, has been cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which said several animals were in need of immediate veterinary attention.

In the report, dated March 17, a USDA inspector found:

▪ A “highly pregnant” female camel was having trouble breathing and had severe swelling on her head and lower limbs. Her left eye showed reddened, enlarged blood vessels.

▪ A mouflon, a type of wild sheep, was wounded and appeared to be limping. The wound on the sheep’s side was six inches long and two inches wide.

▪ A female llama had a discolored eyeball. A representative from Lazy 5 told the inspector the discoloration was from a wound that had healed, according to the report.

The inspector found several expired drugs in the facility’s refrigerator, including ones used to tranquilize and capture animals. And shelter structures in the pen for sheep and goats had missing pieces that “may lead to injury to the animals and may fail to provide adequate shelter from the elements,” according to the report.

The inspection followed a complaint from the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which has been reporting problems at the ranch since 2006, group spokeswoman Brittany Peet said. She said a Lazy 5 patron had contacted the organization about conditions at the ranch.

“The issue here is that Lazy 5 has shown that it cannot and will not adequately care for the animals in its care,” she said.

Lazy 5’s owner, Henry Hampton, and a manager did not return messages Monday. Hampton has previously told the Observer that he and his employees work hard to look after the animals in their care and that other zoos have contacted them to help transport or otherwise handle exotic animals.

It was unclear Monday if the animals had been seen by a veterinarian or if the other issues had been resolved. A USDA spokesperson couldn’t be reached.

The Lazy 5 Ranch is home to more than 750 animals from six continents, according to the ranch’s website. Animals can be viewed via a horse-drawn wagon or from a car.

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