A Petco Store in Johnson City, New York is being blamed for not doing enough to save nearly 100 animals that died in the store after it was swamped by Tropical Storm Lee last week. The pet supply company is pointing fingers at the city for notifying them too late about a cresting river.
The animals, which included hamsters, rodents, reptiles, birds and fish, were trapped in the flooded store for two days.
Despite “highly publicized” flood warnings on Wednesday employees chose not transfer any of the animals to safe locations. A mandatory evacuation issued later in the day forced the employees to abandon the area and leave the animals in the store. Authorities worried that the nearby Susquehanna River would overflow.
Employees checked on the animals during the night and all seemed well, but they found the store flooded with several feet of water when they returned on Thursday morning.
They tried to enter the building to evacuate the animals, but authorities turned them away because of safety concerns.
Employees were finally allowed to re-enter the store on Friday and that’s when they found that nearly 100 of the animals had died.
Petco CEO Jim Myers reported that workers were able to save nearly 100 additional animals who survived the ordeal. Those animals were transferred to nearby Petco stores.
The Consumerist said, Marcy Whichard, Petco’s Vice Present of Animal Care and Education wrote a blog on the company’s website on Saturday that blamed the city for the tragedy.
“We are heartbroken over this tragedy. We want to stress that this was not carelessness on our associates’ behalf, but a communications lapse from the city to the store in evacuations orders. We are investigating why we did not receive those evacuation orders from the city if this area was known to flood in the past. Had we been aware of potential flooding, we would have removed all of the animals from the store as we do in all other locations.”
But Johnson City Mayor Dennis Hannon said the pet franchise should have been prepared for the possibility of flooding since the center where the store is located sits in a flood area.
He said, “The water moves into that area. With all the flood warnings and evacuation orders that were issued, for them not to go down there is just absolutely disgusting.”
This shirking of responsibility on Petco’s behalf angered animal lovers. The blog was removed and replaced by a message from Myers that said, “We apologize to the members of the Johnson City community and look forward to serving you better in the future. We realize the emotional burden this loss placed on your community and are equally saddened by it in our own community.”
“Our store in Johnson City is relatively new, we were not operating the last time flooding threatened the community and we misjudged the risk to this location. We feel terrible that we did not do more to avoid this tragedy, are truly saddened by what has occurred, and accept full responsibility.”
Animal lovers have not accepted this new explanation and have left more than 1,000 comments on the Petco website.
Take Action: Please sign the petition Say No To Petco asking the company to take full responsibility for the death of the animals.
Photo from pixonomy via flickr.