HENRY COUNTY, Ga — There are internal conflicts between board members and the founders at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary that state leaders say are causing operational issues.
“We cannot lose Noah’s Ark,” said state Sen. Emanuel Jones of District 10.
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Since mid-August, investigators with the state’s Department of Natural Resources have been on site monitoring the bird flu outbreak at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary.
The facility plans to remain closed throughout September after being affected by bird flu that killed wild vultures roosting there, part of an outbreak that has led to 40.3 million deaths in commercial and backyard flocks nationwide.
Channel 2′s Ashli Lincoln spoke exclusively with Jones. Last month, he requested two state investigations, which confirmed the bird flu virus.
He says the bird flu outbreak started after large packs of vultures continued to gather over open containers where exposed meat was left out, making it easy for the bird flu virus to spread.
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“Our USDA inspector said it’s becoming like a pest situation,” Allison Hedgecoth, a former employee.
Hedgecoth says board members knew about concerns with the large gathering of vultures back in April.
She says that prior to her termination, she requested that the board order covered meat containers to prevent such large gatherings.
“There are numerous dead vultures still on property,” said Hedgecoth.
Other Noah’s Ark employees reached out to Channel 2, expressing concerns about decisions that they say board members are making that are impacting the quality of care at Noah’s Ark Animal Shelter.
“It’s just unsafe, it’s just unsafe for the animals, it’s unsafe for us,” said Rhaelyn Boycher.
Boycher and three Noah’s Ark Animal Care employees walked off the job Friday afternoon.
Their walk-off now leaves only two Animal Care employees on staff, according to Boycher.
“A lot of the tiger pens, currently right now have old meat and old bones,” said Jesse Worthey, an employee who walked off.
Employees showed Channel 2 exclusive images of what they’re describing as deteriorating conditions at Noah’s Ark.
“There’s no guidance,” said Boycher.
Channel 2 has made multiple requests to interview board president Shelly Lackly and the board, but they’ve denied those requests.
They released the following statement:
“Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary continues its work with state authorities mounting a sustained and heroic effort to contain avian influenza. This remains everyone’s top priority as we work to protect all of the animals of Noah’s Ark and birds across the region. Noah’s Ark has engaged a suite of expert veterinarians in this area who will continue to work closely with state authorities toward a resolution of the bird flu. The risk of human infection with avian influenza is very low. It is not appropriate to address personnel issues in public at this time.”
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