Erin Potter, Staff Writer
On Saturday September 17 there was a protest against the PETCO store in Johnson City, NY and a supply drive for humans and animals affected by the recent flooding.
The incident escalated on the Saturday after the flooding as people began hearing that animals were trapped and subsequently died inside the flooded PETCO facility. Followers of the new Facebook page called “Boycott PETCO” wrote how the police came to the store and were telling people to leave if they inquired about the status of the animals. One woman videotaped her experience where she caught the management saying there were no animals in the store.
The company stated that there was a lack of communication about how bad the flooding was going to be and with evacuation orders. The animals were not evacuated even though residents in the surrounding area were. The plaza where PETCO is located floods whenever the Susquehanna hits flood stage, but an executive of the store claimed that the employees weren’t aware of the potential for flooding. A blog on the PETCO website claims that employees checked on the status of the facility at midnight on Wednesday, at which time there was no flooding. When they returned to the store the next day, the store was flooded with four feet of water. Employees tried to evacuate animals at this point but were asked to leave due to health concerns. They managed to get many animals out, leaving the “disposable ones” behind—meaning the hamsters, reptiles, birds and other small animals. Approximately 100 animals died in the flooding.
The story of the PETCO incident hit the local news channels almost immediately and was picked up by The Wall Street Journal. The mayor of Johnson City, Dennis Hannon, was not happy about the situation. He said, “with all the flood warnings and evacuation orders that were issued, for them not to go down there is just absolutely disgusting.”
Hannon and the police department gave permission for the peaceful protest to occur, but it had to be on the sidewalk which is public property. PETCO took responsibility for what had happened, so the protest was for them to keep their doors closed and not reopen in the flood-prone area. Many people were opposed to the protest, stating that the protesters should be volunteering for flood cleanup instead. In response to this, coordinators of the event decided to also make it a supply drive for humans and animals that were affected by the flooding.
There were 30 to 40 people at all times during the event, including some students who were very passionate about the cause. SUNY Oneonta student Rachael Smith was in attendance and she reacted to the news of the incident saying: “my first reaction was shock. But then I wasn’t surprised because PETCO is a big corporation and they’ve had a lot of press about where they get their animals, specifically the puppies from puppy mills.” Smith went on to say about the protest, “I feel that this was a successful protest in that the press showed up. I expected the numbers to be larger, but it was a good turn out.”