Berkeley Co. petting zoo owner convicted of inhumane treatment of animals

A petting zoo owner accepted a conviction of inhumane care and treatment of animals in court Wednesday.
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 10:23 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 14, 2023 at 5:33 AM EDT
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MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (WCSC) - A petting zoo owner accepted a conviction of inhumane care and treatment of animals in court Wednesday.

Justin Culley was cited in early July for inhumane care and treatment of animals, according to the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office.

He pleaded “nolo contendere” in a hearing Wednesday, according to court records, meaning he accepted the conviction but did not admit to the violation. There is no word yet on sentencing or restitution.

Officials say Culley’s trailer was found abandoned with a flat tire in the Tractor Supply parking lot in Moncks Corner over the hot 4th of July weekend with dozens of animals inside.

More than 30 animals were found in what officials call “inhumane living conditions.”

The animals were transported to H. O. P. E. Acres Rescue in Bonneau where they were given medical attention.

The rescue says the animals were covered in their own feces and were extremely dehydrated and malnourished.

The rescue took in the following animals:

  • One kangaroo
  • One alpaca
  • Four chickens
  • Eight ducks
  • Two rabbits
  • Seven pigs
  • 17 goats, two of which were pregnant
  • One sheep
  • One mule
  • Two mini horses
  • One donkey
  • One horse

One of the rabbits was found dead, but officials aren’t sure how it died, Capt. Lee Mixon with the Moncks Corner Police Department said.

According to state records, Culley has a business called Culley Farms which is described as a mobile petting zoo.

Culley denied the allegations, calling it defamation and that he was seeking legal representation.

In a statement, Culley responded by saying he found Berkeley County’s response was “acted in a premeditated and biased manner” going on to say he finds the allegations were “embellished and over exaggerated.”

“I made a mistake leaving the trailer at TSC (Tractor Supply Co.) for the short time it took me to get the trailer tire replaced but I did the only thing I could to move the animals out of there as quickly as possible,” Culley said.

No word yet from the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office on the status of their investigation.