Giraffe expert testifies on animal conditions in day five of Natural Bridge Zoo trial

LEXINGTON, Va. – Natural Bridge Zoo has wrapped up court for the week and the county has rested.

As we’ve reported about 100 animals were seized from them back in December. The case is on appeal.

The Attorney General’s office is trying to prove why they were justified in seizing them.

The defense called their first witnesses. We heard from one of Natural Bridge Zoo’s veterinarians for the first time.

She told the jury that she last visited the zoo in January, but she wasn’t able to say much else.

Later on judge ruled that some of the zoo’s vet records could be introduced but other parts needed to be taken out, so they moved on to another witness.

A nonprofit caring for some of the confiscated animals shared her observations.

“I thought they were in good shape. I didn’t see anything wrong with them. I thought one of the llamas was a little thin otherwise I thought it was ok,” said Lois McGill, Founder of New Freedom Farm.

For much of the day, we heard from two different giraffe experts on both sides. They had different opinions on their enclosure, hoof growth, and weight.

One said she believed there was a threat to the health of four giraffes at the zoo – that their hooves were overgrown, they were cold, and lacking “enrichment.”

“Would I love for those animals and staff to be helped and educated? Absolutely. How that happens and what that looks like, I don’t know,” said Amy Phelps, giraffe expert from Oakland Zoo.

Defense witnesses include law enforcement and a nonprofit that received animals from the seizure. They testified they didn’t see a problem with the animals, except for a llama being thin.

This jury trial was supposed to wrap up Thursday but will continue on Monday.

About the Author

Amy Cockerham joined the 10 News team in January 2023.

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