Henry County

Channel 2 Action News gets exclusive look at Noah’s Ark animal sanctuary, speaks with president

Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary President Shelly Lackly told Channel 2 investigative reporter Ashli Lincoln in an exclusive interview that she wants to set the record straight.

“There has never been a plan to sell off Noah’s Ark,” Lackly said.

Lackly took Channel 2 Action News on an exclusive tour of the current conditions at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary.

“We care and love animals,” she said.

Lackly denies the allegations from critics about the handling and welfare of animal care.

She said the criticism surrounding her leadership grew after she asked the former founder, Jama Hedgecoth, to resign.

“We had a pretty vicious mob that was out in front of both here, and my staff included. We were concerned for our own safety,” Lackly told Lincoln.

She said for weeks she endured threats and protests both at her home and at the sanctuary.

“On social media, they invited people to come to my house and open carry in front of my house. I had threats to my pets and my family,” Lackly said.

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Details noted in a September 2022 USDA inspection report revealed animals living in dens covered in waste.

Lackly said the report was taken six days after several groundskeepers quit.

“It was their responsibility to keep those up with that, and the inspection was six days after that,” she said.

Lackly said the trifecta of disasters started in August when they were hit with the bird flu outbreak.

“It almost devastated the staff to have to go through that,” she said.

The outbreak forced the sanctuary to remain closed for months, while they were under quarantine. They opened back up in January.

But at the end of that month, Lackly said the sanctuary was devastated by a tornado. And two months later, the property was overwhelmed by flooding.

A walkway over a stream was wiped away by that flooding. Lackly said they’re looking to raise several thousands to make repairs.

The sanctuary also received criticism regarding the removal of several animals from the property.

“It was 80 horses, 57 goats, and seven sheep,” she said.

Lackly said under previous leadership, they accepted too many hooved animals, and it was becoming a safety hazard.

“Too many mixed together and no infrastructure,” Lackly said.

Lackly said she avoided speaking publicly for months due to an onslaught of threats. She said she was also focusing on getting the facility open to the public.

Lackly said they plan to reopen the facility to the public by the fall of 2023.

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