Visitors at Mooresville animal attraction can no longer feed animals out of their cars

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Queen City News) – A popular attraction in Mooresville has been forced to change its operations due to new federal guidelines.

Lazy 5 Ranch is known for giving visitors the opportunity to get up close and personal with animals on its more than three-mile driving trail where hundreds of animals from six continents roam. It has been a regular destination for field trips and family outings for 31 years, but now the animal experience has changed due to USDA guidelines.

The new policy requires a staff member to be present any time an animal is fed. Jennifer Smith, manager of Lazy 5 Barn, explained that the changes resulted in the temporary closure of the traffic area where people could feed the goats and see the birds.

“March 8 [USDA] We came out with new guidelines for inspectors, which is a book that tells inspectors how to inspect and specifically how to interpret some of the roles that in the past might have said ‘adequate’ or ‘adequate,’ and it’s open to a lot of variables,” Smith said.

USDA guidelines also mandated a significant change to drive-thru visitors who can no longer feed animals from their cars. Feeding is now limited to carriage rides.

Visitors at Mooresville animal attraction can no longer feed animals out of their cars
Horse-drawn carriages will be the only way to interact with the animals at Lazy 5 Ranch.

“It was damaging,” Smith said. “We’ve had some field trip groups cancelled, and the cars realize they won’t be able to feed and interact with the animals like they have in the past, so they turn around and leave. It’s not the same experience. This is not what they were expecting.”

Smith says the guidelines don’t reflect the true danger involved in human-animal contact.

“We have been open for 31 years and have had little to no problems with animal and human contact,” Smith said. “Thousands and thousands of people have fed and interacted with the animals with absolutely no harm to humans or animals.”

Carriage rides are available with reservation. Space is limited because the carriages are driven by horses.

“It’s proven to be beneficial,” Smith said. “It’s good for autistic kids, we have blind groups, we have deaf groups, we have all types. It really improves human lives to be able to interact with animals, and the USDA is discouraging that.”
Smith says Lazy 5 has been mediating with USDA officials to address their concerns while keeping it fun.

“What can people do to help? You can all call your legislators, your senators, your representatives, the USDA, and tell them that you miss that interaction at Lazy 5, and that this interaction not just here, but in other places is important,” she explained.

Support is pouring in via Facebook, where Lazy 5 Ranch has documented its journey with the USDA and the forced changes.

“It really warms our hearts because we have a huge following on Facebook and we have a ton of people that support us,” Smith said. “People have been bringing their families here for years and years generation after generation to experience it with their children, and they have sent us videos, encouraging posts, encouraging words and cards and phone calls just asking us to hang in there.”

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