A Maryland couple that fraudulently banked nearly $1,500 off of a viral zebra escape has been told to stop their efforts by Prince George’s County Department of the Environment (DOE).
In August, three zebras escaped from a farm owned by Jerry Holly. One of the zebras was killed in an illegally placed snare trap but two zebras remain loose.
Theodore McKenzie and Bethany Petrie are caretakers at a property adjacent to Holly’s farm. The two escaped zebras have been living in the woods of that property.
McKenzie and Petrie quickly latched on to the zebra escape as a fundraising attempt. They started the “Save The Zebras” Foundation on Facebook, they made a website and they began a GoFundMe campaign, fraudulently claiming to be a nonprofit organization.
“Your donations will provide food, and comfort as we continue our daily care of these unique and special zebras,” according to the fundraiser.
It is unclear why Holly, the zebra's owner, would not be responsible for paying for the zebra’s care and recapture efforts.
McKenzie and Petrie raised $1,472 of a $15,000 goal before the county made them stop fundraising. Save the Zebras has halted donations to their GoFundMe campaign.
DoE told WUSA9 they’re urging the public not to feed the zebras or to encourage the animals to remain anywhere off the owner’s property.
The owner of the escaped zebras, Jerry Holly, has been charged with three counts of animal cruelty. Inspectors found a second deceased zebra on Holly’s property in October.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture inspected the facility in September after the zebras escaped.
Documents indicate 36 zebras were being cared for by one person with no experience or adequate knowledge of the species.
The inspector found the barn for the zebras needed repairs and there was no heat source for the animals. There were tractors, farm equipment and piles of wood stored in the pasture where the zebras roamed. The facility did not have adequate disposition records for camels that were no longer on the property.
Holly was cited with a critical violation for the zebra escape incident and the subsequent death of one of the zebras and they cited Holly with four noncritical violations.
WUSA9 reported Holly has previously been cited more than 240 times over 17 years for state and federal wildlife violations.