In late 2011, national attention was focused on Johnson City, New York, after PETCO and its workers abandoned hundreds of caged animals in its store there and dozens drowned in massive flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee.
After 16 months of repeated public-records requests, PETA has obtained police records from the incident, while doing its own digging. PETCO workers' failures to do the right thing for the animals in their charge are even worse than anyone imagined.
Remember when PETCO Vice President Marcie Whichard called the flooding "completely unpredictable?" Well, it turns out that the flooding was the subject of at least 15 National Weather Service watches, warnings, and forecasts beginning before dawn on September 6, 2011.
That's 36 hours before PETCO managers and employees abandoned the animals who later drowned.
In fact, on that fateful day, September 7, 2011, a manager started e-mailing a PETCO corporate manager around 9:30 a.m. about closing the store early. Around 2 p.m., the manager and another employee discovered that a state of emergency was in effect. Another manager saw that a nearby road was already closed and concluded that "the storm was going to be bad."
Then a senior manager decided to close the store at 3:30 p.m. "and send the employees home." At about 4 p.m., officials issued a flood warning for the nearby river and forecast flooding of "RECORD SEVERITY" just upstream of Johnson City.
Just 30 or so minutes later, PETCO bosses locked up the store and drove away. When PETCO managers left all those animals behind that day—helpless in cages from which they had no way to escape—there was an active federal warning that "RAPID FLOODING OF … CREEKS …AND POOR DRAINAGE AREAS [WAS] LIKELY." The store, as the employees knew, is near a creek and in a plaza prone to severe flooding.
But no one had evacuated the animals.
Shortly thereafter, a manager discovered an evacuation order for the store and surrounding streets.
Hours passed. The animals remained trapped and alone in the store.
Around 9:30 p.m., another manager concluded that the store may flood.
Still, no animals were removed.
At about 12:15 a.m. on September 8, 2011, a PETCO manager called the senior manager to say that she was "concerned that the animals might be under water."
Was this enough to help the animals? No.
The senior manager "did not seem concerned that the animals were in danger." At least five hours had passed since the store was ordered evacuated. The animals hadn't been moved.
Around 6:40 a.m. on September 8, 2011, the senior manager found the store covered with water.
Imagine the terror and suffering that the animals experienced as the water level rose and they drowned, all because this multibillion-dollar company and no less than seven PETCO corporate, senior, and other managers and employees could not be bothered to get them out of harm's way.
It was not until about 2 p.m. on September 9, 2011—more than 45 hours after PETCO managers turned their backs on these animals—that the senior manager and a PETCO corporate manager went into the store and found that ferrets, birds, snakes, rodents, and other animals had drowned. These animals' lives and deaths were apparently so trivial to PETCO that the senior manager couldn't be bothered to count the victims. PETCO corporate representatives just estimated that nearly 100 animals had died.
The bottom line: Stores that sell animals treat them as if they are just toys on a shelf.
PETCO reopened the location in April 2012, but—likely due largely to the community outcry following the drowning—it no longer sells animals there.
You can help ensure that no animal is ever again abandoned to drown in a PETCO store. Please urge PETCO to stop selling all animals in its stores that are located in flood plains or are prone to flooding.
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