Raining (on) Cats and Dogs

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FACT CHECK:  Did animals die during flooding at a PetSmart location in South Carolina after employees left them to drown?

Claim:   Animals died during flooding at a PetSmart location in South Carolina after employees left them to drown.


Examples:     [Collected via e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook, October 2015]

Is it true that one (or more) of your stores in SC left their animals to die in the flood??? Please address this! If it’s true then it is just wrong! Why would you employ anyone who doesn’t care about animals??? I read that some other stores did evacuate but this store didn’t? What is wrong with your employees?!?!

This Petsmart in SC left all their animals in the store to drown to death. They had days to evacuate the animals and only chose to save the cats in their care.

Origins:   In early October 2015 catastrophic flooding affected several southern states, including South Carolina. On 4 October 2015, a rumor emerged on social media claiming animals inside PetSmart stores (primarily the Garners Ferry PetSmart in Columbia, South Carolina) were abandoned and left to drown by the chain’s employees.

Animal lovers on social media swarmed PetSmart’s Facebook and Twitter pages demanding to know whether pets at one or more South Carolina PetSmart stores suffered that rumored fate. And while PetSmart didn’t officially address the queries, other users weighed in with individual accounts of area flooding:

A dam broke overnight. The store went from fine to underwater in something like three hours. No one was at the store. Most of the animals made it, from what I’ve heard.

Although PetSmart didn’t initially acknowledge or clarify the rumors, a reported with Columbia television station WIS tweeted on 7 October 2015:

We contacted the PetSmart location mentioned in the rumors, but calls to that number didn’t connect. We also contacted PetSmart’s media relations division to ascertain whether any animals perished in floods (at Garners Ferry or other locations) and received the following reply:

Store 2423 on Garners Ferry Road in Columbia, South Carolina suffered significant flooding on Saturday night. As a precautionary measure, the store team partnered with our local adoption agency and Banfield Pet Hospital to remove any dogs and cats from the store that evening.

When the store closed on Saturday night, there were fish and less than 35 small pets in habitats. After the sudden flooding overnight, our associates attempted to gain access to the store but were prohibited by local authorities from entering due to unsafe conditions.

The store team was allowed to enter the store early Monday morning and was able to recover many fish and at least six small animals, which have been transported to a neighboring store. Unfortunately, we did lose several fish and around 25 small animals.

The safety of our associates and the pets in our care is our top priority, and as always, we’ll evaluate this situation to see what — if anything — could have been done differently.

As the PetSmart representative indicated, no cats or dogs died as a result of flooding at the Garners Ferry location. Employees were prevented from evacuating some animals due to weather conditions, and approximately two dozen small animals were lost (along with several fish). However, flooding was abrupt, and PetSmart employees at that location endeavored to minimize the number of pet casualties. Moreover, emergency placement of cats and dogs likely took priority and presented a smaller logistical challenge than evacuation of fish and gerbils during a scenario in which available time to act was severely limited.

Last updated:      7 October 2015

Originally published:      7 October 2015