PETA lawyer files private warrant against Lazy 5 owner
By Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY — A representative of a well-known animal rights group filed a private warrant Thursday against the owner of Lazy 5 Ranch accusing him of animal cruelty.
Rowan County Sheriff’s Office spokesman John Sifford said the warrant, which named ranch owner Henry Hampton, did not include any criminal investigation.
The warrant was filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) litigation counselor Amanda Schwoerke.
In the misdemeanor criminal summons, Schwoerke alleges that Hampton “willfully did intentionally torment an animal, a giraffe at the Lazy Five Ranch.”
The warrant also listed Brenda Kirby, of Mt. Hope Church Road, as a witness.
Deputies delivered the criminal summons about 8 p.m. Thursday. Although technically an arrest, a summons does not require Hampton to appear before a magistrate.
The warrant is the latest in a series of accusations about the treatment of Lazy 5 Ranch’s animals.
In August, PETA issued a press release stating that Hampton failed to “provide adequate veterinary care to a young giraffe with severely overgrown hooves” and allowed the animal to “languish in this painful damaging condition for more than nine months.”
Earlier this month, PETA sent letters to school superintendents urging them not to take students to the ranch after Lazy 5 was named the top school field trip destination in an annual survey.
After PETA raised the issue in August, Rowan County Animal Control Supervisor Clai Martin inspected the ranch along with two United States Department of Agriculture employees.
Martin told the Post at the time that nothing he saw at the ranch gave rise to any cruelty law violations.
Henry Hampton said during a phone interview with the Post on Friday that telling the ranch’s critics that the long-hoofed giraffes are slowly progressing “doesn’t satisfy them.”
“The fact of the matter is they say I should get veterinary help to come trim their feet, but this is the ninth or tenth giraffe we had that had long feet that we corrected ourselves,” he said.
Lazy 5’s giraffes use gravel or limestone at the ranch to naturally trim their hooves, Hampton said, a process he thinks has worked well since the Mooresville Road attraction has handled 16 giraffes in eight years.
Contrary to PETA’s beliefs, he said, the giraffes aren’t in pain.
“If you watch the animals move, there is no soreness,” Hampton said. “They move like they have long feet. They don’t look like there’s anything wrong with them at all.”
As a giraffe gets older, Hampton said, his ligaments and tendons begin to relax and the hooves naturally wear themselves down as it walks.
But that’s not what critics want to hear, he said.
“They’re not going to let that happen. They can’t look at the changes and identify the changes because they can’t tell the difference of the angle or the depth of the heel,” Hampton said. “They don’t know what any of that is.”
At $50,000 to $60,000 per giraffe, a death is financially devastating to the ranch.
But Hampton said he’s more worried about the care of the animals.
In May, a giraffe at the Buffalo Zoo in New York was euthanized after failing to recover from anesthesia during a hoof trimming procedure.
The month before, another giraffe was killed while under anesthesia during the same procedure at a Baltimore zoo.
“This is going to force us to do things we know we shouldn’t,” Hampton said.
A court date is set for Jan. 16.
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