Animal rights group, veterinarian file lawsuit against Henry’s Noah’s Ark

A metro Atlanta veterinarian and Ohio-based non-profit animal rights group are taking Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary to court over alleged poor care of animals at the Locust Grove facility.

In a lawsuit filed earlier this week in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, Outreach for Animals and former Noah’s Ark veterinarian Dr. Karen Thomas accuse the sanctuary of violating the federal Endangered Species Act by failing to adequately feed, house and care for around 60 animals — including tigers, macaws, cockatoos, a lion, a bear, a Lar gibbon and two spider monkeys.

The alleged neglect includes inadequate veterinary care and causing the animals pain, hunger and sometimes death, the lawsuit claims.

“Defendants are depriving ESA-protected species of adequate veterinary care, forcing them to eat contaminated food, and depriving them of safe and sanitary living,” Thomas and the group allege in the lawsuit.

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Outreach for Animals, which is based in Dayton, Ohio.

The litigation comes about 10 months after the facility, once one of Henry County’s biggest family destinations, closed to the public indefinitely after an outbreak of bird flu.

An investigation into the deaths of a large number of black vultures on the sanctuary’s premises in August 2022 determined they had been infected with the H5N1 strain of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).

Around 100 birds under Noah’s Ark’s care were euthanized to contain the disease’s spread in the days that followed, including chickens, turkeys, peacocks, pea hens, emus, ostrich, Guinea fowl, an owl, crow and sandhill crane.

Parrots, a visitor favorite, were not affected.

Noah’s Ark was founded in Ellenwood in 1978 by Jama Hedgecoth to care for injured, abused and orphaned animals. It moved to its current 250-acre home in Locust Grove in 1990.

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Noah’s Ark leaders on Friday alleged the lawsuit by Thomas and Outreach for Animals was a continuation of a campaign opponents of the facility’s current management have waged since the outbreak.

In a response to a March 22 letter Thomas and Outreach sent announcing their intent to sue, Noah’s Ark said the complainants and others have turned to the federal courts after failing to win similar lawsuits filed at the state court level.

“This latest threatened lawsuit is part of your clients’ collective and ongoing strategy of scorched earth litigation to gain control — for their personal financial benefit — of a nonprofit organization that exists to care for the animals, not to benefit a specific human family,” Noah’s Ark officials said.