Nearly 60 animals were burned alive April 4 at a Georgia roadside zoo that was cited repeatedly for fire hazards in the months leading up to the fire.
Hand Me Down Zoo in Winder, Georgia, caught fire around 10 p.m. Monday night. The Barrow Fire Department responded to the fire and rescued as many animals as they could, according to a Hand Me Down Zoo social media post.
Hand Me Down Zoo posted on social media that the animals that were killed included eight sugar gliders, two prehensile tailed porcupines, one highland lynx, two kookaburra, 17 lizards, 11 turtles, three tortoises, six snakes, two tarantulas, two scorpions, one chinchilla, one parrot, feeder mice, baby chicks and ducklings.
Hand Me Down Zoo is owned by Kerry Ervin. The Georgia roadside zoo immediately began profiting off of the tragedy, setting up fundraisers including a GoFundMe that has already raised nearly $5,000. Ervin told 11Alive News that insurance would not be covering the fire damages because the structure is considered a business. Hand Me Down Zoo is listed as an active business in Georgia so it is unclear why the facility would not have liability insurance.
In the two years since the facility obtained a U.S. Department of Agriculture license they’ve been cited for five violations of the Animal Welfare Act for failing to sufficiently control animals during public interactions, for failing to have adequate public barriers, for unsafe animal enclosures and repeat violations for electrical hazards.
On Feb. 9, the USDA cited Hand Me Down Zoo for leaving live unprotected electrical cords accessible to the animals.
On March 11, the USDA cited Hand Me Down Zoo with a repeat violation for leaving live unprotected electrical cords accessible to the animals.
“Unprotected powered electrical cords that are within an animal’s enclosure allows access to an electrical hazard that can cause electrocution, injury and/or death,” according to the USDA violation report.
The live cords were powering the Asian small-clawed otter's pool and the highland lynx (hybrid) cat’s water fountain. The highland lynx cat mentioned in the report is one of the animals that was burned alive Monday.
Hand Me Down Zoo posted on social media that the building that caught fire will be closed but they plan on opening their safari walk that was unaffected by the fire and they'll be traveling with their animals to schools and other locations.
Hand Me Down Zoo posted that they’re celebrating the tragic death of the animals because “they’ve brightened our lives with theirs.”