Duluth flood: PETA wants Lake Superior Zoo prosecuted for animal drownings

Categories: Animals
lake superior zoo playground.jpg
Brandon Stahl on Twitter
The Lake Superior Zoo's playground was completely submerged on Wednesday.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals alleges that Lake Superior Zoo staff acted negligently when 13 or 14 animals died during Wednesday's flash flood.

The animal rights group says the animals shouldn't have been left in a position to drown. Kristin Simon, senior cruelty caseworker for PETA, pointed out during a phone interview with the Duluth News Tribune that flash-flood warnings had been issued in the Duluth area, and cited a similar but less severe 2010 flood in making a case that staff should've been better prepared.

"At the very least, PETA would like to see the zoo put standard emergency operating procedures into place," she said. "It's just a shame that this kind of tragedy was required for common sense to kick in... We would like to see a full investigation into this matter and we would like to see cruelty charges filed against those who failed these animal victims."

Three birds -- a turkey vulture, a raven, and a snowy owl -- plus six sheep, four goats, and a donkey are believed to have died as Kingsbury Creek overflowed, though the raven may have flown away. A seal escaped and crossed Grand Avenue -- resulting in the unforgettable photo seen below at left -- and a polar bear got out of her exhibit only to be tranquilized before she left the zoo premises. The zoo's two seals and the polar bear are now at St. Paul's Como Zoo.
duluth seal.jpg
Unlike many of her colleagues, Feisty the seal was able to swim away from the flooded Lake Superior Zoo.

"It's difficult to imagine the terror that [the drowning] animals experienced, having no way to escape as the water engulfed them," said Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA VP of cruelty investigations.

But Sam Maida, CEO of the Lake Superior Zoological Society that manages the zoo, blamed the animal deaths on a failed water culvert and a relentless 18-hour rainfall that nobody could've foreseen.

Referring to PETA, Maida said, "Obviously, they were not here to experience it. Taking the zoo and isolating on it with all that went on in the counties around here with $100 million worth of damage in the area -- I think taking it out of context is somewhat dangerous."

Duluth City Attorney Gunnar Johnson seems to concur with the zoo's blame-it-on-God-not-man version of events.

"We saw things in the infrastructure fail throughout the city. It's an act of God," he told the News Tribune. "A water structure [culvert] didn't work and it failed and that failure caused a series of events that led to the loss of these animals. That appears to be what happened."

Duluth flood coverage:
-- Duluth flood update, and 10 more jaw-dropping images [PHOTOS]
-- Duluth floods: Top 10 jaw-dropping images [PHOTOS]
-- Feisty -- the wild-eyed, freedom-loving Duluth seal -- is headed to the Como Zoo
-- Duluth flooding sets zoo seal free downtown [PHOTOS]
-- Mark Dayton declares state of emergency over Duluth flooding
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