100 Animals Die in Petco Store From Tropical Storm Lee Flooding

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A shopper leaves a Petco store in Chicago, Ill.

At least 100 animals died in a New York Petco store after the building was flooded by Tropical Storm Lee.

The animals, which included hamsters, rodents, reptiles, birds and aquatic life, were left in the Johnson City, N.Y., store during the storm. Whether they died from drowning or starvation has not been disclosed.

The building, near Binghamton, was evacuated and later besieged by flood waters. Store employees discovered the animals on Friday, the first day they were allowed to enter the pet store after the storm.

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The animal deaths reportedly could have been prevented. Marcie Whichard, a Petco executive, blamed the incident on miscommunication between the city and the store regarding evacuation orders.

On the company website, Petco CEO Jim Myers discussed the “unfortunate tragedy.” Myers wrote, “Our store in Johnson City is relatively new, we were not operating the last time flooding threatened the community and we misjudged the risk to this location.”

Despite the nearly 100 deaths, the majority of the animals were rescued, according to Myers. “We feel terrible that we did not do more to avoid this tragedy, are truly saddened by what has occurred, and accept full responsibility.”

At the time of this writing, Myers’ apology drew more than 1,000 comments, some claiming to have notified People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. A Facebook page has also cropped up for the boycott of Petco.

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Kai Ma is a TIME contributor. Find her on Twitter at @Kai_Ma or on Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.