ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — After months of several court hearings, a federal judge concluded that 39 animals will be returned to the owners of the Natural Bridge Zoo.
This decision comes after authorities seized 96 animals from the zoo over allegations of abuse. According to court documents obtained by WFXR News, on Jan. 25, the court ruled that the owners will have to pay $45,563.46 to the county for care and boarding.
Officials also have the right to make unannounced inspections at the Natural Bridge Zoo over the next six months.
When the case first went to the courts, many were concerned about the elephant, Asha, and the four giraffes.
According to the court documents, the court decided that the giraffes would remain in the care at the Natural Bridge Zoo. However, the county is permitted to make unannounced visits to check on the giraffes to ensure their health and safety.
Documents also revealed that the only people allowed to inspect the giraffes were a special agent from the Virginia State Police and a giraffe vet of their choosing.
There is still no update at this time on Asha.
The courts listed 39 animals as exceptions and ruled evidence could not conclude these animals were subjected to cruelty. Along with the giraffes, these animals have been allowed to return to the Natural Bridge Zoo.
WFXR News will update this story as further information is released.