PETA Files Formal Appeal Over USDA's Refusal to Hand Over Animal-Welfare Records Related to Roadside Zoo
For Immediate Release:
May 3, 2019
David Perle, 202-483-7382
Mooresville, N.C. – Today, PETA filed an appeal with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) contending that the agency is violating the Freedom of Information Act by withholding photographs relating to three USDA inspections of Lazy 5 Ranch, a roadside zoo in Mooresville.
Over four years after one of PETA’s requests for these records, the USDA responded by stating that it wouldn’t provide over 50 pages of photographs from the inspections on March 17, 2015, August 23, 2017, and December 5, 2017, purportedly in order to protect the facility’s “privacy interest.” Among other animal-welfare violations found during these inspections, the USDA cited Lazy 5 for failing to provide a lamb with adequate veterinary care. The animal had an abnormally outstretched head and neck and was reluctant to move. The lamb’s left eye was kept continually closed, and his or her legs were apparently soiled with diarrhea. The USDA also cited Lazy 5 for failing to provide five antelope—four of whom were found dead and one of whom died shortly after being discovered by the facility—with adequate shelter during cold weather.
“The USDA’s ‘interest’ should be in protecting the animals held at ramshackle roadside zoos like the Lazy 5 Ranch, not ensuring the privacy of animal exploiters,” says PETA Foundation Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “PETA is calling on the USDA to stop trying to hide whether it’s doing its job to enforce federal animal-welfare law and hand over these public records immediately.”
The USDA’s own Office of Inspector General has taken the agency to task for failing to document violations adequately, which puts animals at higher risk of being neglected or abused. The USDA recently removed thousands of inspection reports and other records from its website, prompting PETA to campaign against the agency’s lack of transparency by filing lawsuits and taking other actions aimed at determining whether the USDA is enforcing the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
On March 4, Lazy 5 owner Henry Hampton agreed to pay $20,000 to settle the USDA’s administrative lawsuit alleging more than 70 violations of the AWA between October 2013 and December 2017 at Lazy 5 and Hampton’s other facility in Sugarcreek, Ohio.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org.