Hershey, Pa. — PETA sent a formal complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) seeking an investigation into the deaths of two bison at ZooAmerica in Hershey. On the afternoon of September 7, the facility’s failure to relocate animals in the face of flood warnings resulted in the drowning death of one bison, 15-year-old Esther. Her 13-year-old brother, Ryan, was shot and killed as he struggled in high water. Although the Dauphin County commissioner, who oversees the county’s Emergency Management Agency, had warned that flooding was “imminent” the afternoon before these incidents took place, ZooAmerica officials now claim that the flooding was “unforeseen.”

“It’s upsetting to imagine the terror that these two animals experienced, having no way to escape as the water engulfed them,” says PETA Director Delcianna Winders. “It’s also difficult to fathom the callousness of ZooAmerica in ignoring repeated warnings and not acting to evacuate these two magnificent animals.”

The Animal Welfare Act—which the USDA is charged with enforcing—requires that animals be provided with protection, including adequate shelter, that is appropriate to local conditions. Although thousands of area residents were evacuated in anticipation of floodwaters in excess of 12 feet predicted to occur through September 8, ZooAmerica remained open to the public and did not activate its emergency plan until noon on September 7. A photo taken by a local resident shows the two animals huddled together in deep water prior to their deaths.

PETA’s letter to the USDA is available upon request. For more information, please visit PETA.org.