Blue Hills Ranch cited for operating illegally

Photo credit: Facebook/Blue Hills Ranch.

More than a year after Roadside Zoo News alerted the U.S. Department of Agriculture that Blue Hills Ranch in McGregor, Texas, was operating without a license, the agency has issued the roadside zoo an Official Warning.

Blue Hills Ranch is owned by Matt Leiberman. It is listed as a performance and event venue, often hosting weddings. The facility has also added guest rental cabins on the property.

The roadside zoo collects various exotic animals including giraffes, zebras, lemurs, otters, kangaroos, camels and others; offering paid safari tours for $75 per person and animal encounters for $50 per person.

Guests can also swim in a hot tub with otters for $150 per person.

Federal regulations indicate that any facility that exhibits exotic animals to the public must obtain an exhibitor's license from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Blue Hills Ranch failed to obtain the federally required license to exhibit animals to the public, operating illegally for more than a year.

On September 15, 2022, the USDA issued an Official Warning to Blue Hills Ranch, noting that no person shall operate as a dealer, exhibitor, or operator of an auction sale without a valid license.

"If APHIS obtains evidence of any future violation of these federal regulations, APHIS may pursue civil penalties, criminal prosecution or other sanctions," the agency wrote.