PETCO Animals Perish in Flooding

petcoImage courtesy of GoogleMaps

This Petco was among the stores damaged by floodwaters in this shopping plaza in Broome County

It’s a sad day in Johnson City, NY where many animals died while trapped inside a flooded pet store. According to PETCO‘s Vice President of Animal Care and Education, Marcie Whichard, the local sewage/drainage system backed up during a flood caused by Topical Storm Lee last Thursday. Earlier reports blamed the flood waters on the swell from the Susquehanna River behind the store. Exactly what happened is unclear as official posts made on PETCO’s blog, The PETCO Scoop, have changed.

All appeared well at the PETCO store off Harry L. Drive just before midnight on Wednesday when the decision was made to keep the animals in the store. Local river flood warnings were given, however PETCO CEO, Jim Myers, wrote, “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.” Early Thursday, PETCO employees returned to find the store under four feet of water but were blocked from entering by local authorities that were focusing on rescuing people trapped in their homes. Once they were given access to the flooded store, employees rescued the animals which remained alive and relocated them to Syracuse.

In response to passionate animal welfare advocates that were outraged by the situation and bombarding PETCO’s social media outlets with accusations, Whichard posted an update on PETCO’s Blog on Friday, September 10. You can read a copy of Whichard’s full post here. It was removed and replaced by Myers’ much shorter post on September 11. Myers’ apology had drawn over a thousand comments as the debate over who was responsible continues. With so many words being exchanged across the internet, it’s difficult to get a clear picture of the facts. One photo that is circulating rumors in relationship to this event is a pet store owner rescuing animals by kayak. This was an event from Pet Depot in Vestal, NY and not the PETCO in Johnson City.

The number of animals that perished, were rescued, and exactly what types of animals has not been detailed by PETCO but they sell guinea pigs, ferrets, rats, hamsters, mice, birds, reptiles and aquatic life. Time is reporting that at least 100 animals have died.

From the guinea pig perspective, whether or not cavies are good swimmers or enjoy swimming is debatable. One thread on GuineaLynx discusses the topic in detail. They do agree that it’s not safe to have a pet guinea pig in water deeper than they can stand or in water where a landing is not available for them to climb out. Although swimming would not be their only obstacle in this situation. The animals may have been trapped inside the cage, obstructed by objects, or unable to climb out of the water. Other stranded animals might find guinea pigs to be easy prey. If they were able to overcome these challenges they might have had a chance but would need to have food, clean water, and medical attention immediately.

Image courtesy of

The flooded stores in Johnson City, NY. PETCO is between the blue sign and the red brick tower.

WBNG reports local mayor, Dennis Hannon, does not understand PETCO’s critique of authorities. He says the area is completely flooded and to blame the local sewage/drainage system is “absurd.” Online comments from those claiming to be local to the area appear to agree with officials. The tropical storm forced the evacuation of more than 20,000 people in Broome County. The Susquehanna River peaked at 25.7 feet Thursday evening. It was predicted to be 26 feet above flood stage but only reached 11 feet above, according to the National Weather Service. It had dropped 4 feet by Friday afternoon. A video posted on YouTube showed widespread damage in the area.

PETCO has evacuation procedures in place and supports other animal related emergencies across the US. Whichard wrote, “Even now, our associates are working hard to support and provide help for pets and pet parents in TX and AZ impacted by fires and still assisting in adoption of animals for major disasters like the ones in Joplin.” Another PETCO was busy tending to animals rescued from its Mechanicsburg store and brought to Harrisburg, PA. On The PETCO Scoop, Myers writes, “We will study events surrounding this occurrence and take additional steps to ensure that nothing like this can happen again.”

Animal lovers angered by this situation can’t be tamed. There’s already a Boycott PETCO Facebook page and a thread on Reddit encouraging pet lovers to contact People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. WBGH reports that PETA is already on the case in a letter posted from PETA to Broome County District Attorney Gerald F. Mollen.

Update: The story is now on CNN. They confirm guinea pigs were among the 100 animals that were rescued along with mice, reptiles, birds, and aquatic life. Mayor Dennis Hannon revealed details when he told CNN, “the flood waters were very high, well above the front doors of the building. Unless the animals were very near the ceiling, a couple feet from it, they would have perished.” CNN also has a photo of inside the store.

If you have a great idea for an article about guinea pigs, please let us know. Guinea Pig Today is a network of guinea pig lovers and we’re always looking for the next great story. View our submissions page for more information on how to submit your idea.

Angela, Editor-in-Chief, GPT

Angela founded Guinea Pig Today and guest writes for CavyMadness. She volunteers with Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue and supports the ROUS Foundation. Her guinea pig, Papua, is the star of WHEK-TV/DT.

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2 Responses to “PETCO Animals Perish in Flooding”
  1. Liz says:

    I’d just like to point out that Pet Depot is located in Vestal, NY not Binghamton. Vestal was actually damaged worse than Binghamton. The Pet Depot store did not flood in the 2006 event, but when there was a chance that it might with this one, they evacuated the animals. PetCo however has chosen to deflect at every turn, and lie whenever it’s most expedient for them. I find both stores pretty deplorable, but PetCo was just cruel. Thanks for trying to report this the best you can.

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