News & Politics

Owner of Escaped Zebras Charged with Animal Cruelty Following Two Zebra Deaths

One of Jerry Lee Holly's escaped zebras and one of his captive zebras each recently perished.

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The owner of the zebras that are now roaming freely in the Maryland suburbs is facing animal cruelty charges, after one of the escaped zebras died, according to court records obtained by DCist. 

The Prince George’s County animal services division on Tuesday filed three criminal charges against Jerry Lee Holly, the 76-year-old owner of the zebras that escaped from his farm near Upper Marlboro in late August. The charging documents also reference the death of a zebra that had remained in captivity on Holly’s farm.

The escaped zebra likely died of dehydration after it was caught in a snare located less than two feet from the fenced enclosure on Holly’s farm where that zebra had once been kept, and where Holly’s 36 other zebras at the time were being held, according to the documents. Officials could not determine a cause of death for the escaped zebra because it had decomposed by the time they found its body on September 16. 

An investigating officer from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, however, stated that he believes that the escaped zebra died “after a period of a few days of struggling in the trap,” according to the charging documents. The officer also stated that he believed the escaped zebra “should have been seen or heard while it was dying from being caught in the snare if the caretaker had attended to the zebras in the fenced enclosure.” 

The charging documents also note a “failure” to respond to a second dead zebra, which was found inside the fenced enclosure on Holly’s farm. This second zebra “had been deceased long enough that it had entered its rigor-mortis stage” by the time officials discovered it on Tuesday, according to the documents.

Senior Writer

Luke Mullins is a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine focusing on the people and institutions that control the city’s levers of power. He has written about the Koch Brothers’ attempt to take over The Cato Institute, David Gregory’s ouster as moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, the collapse of Washington’s Metro system, and the conflict that split apart the founders of Politico.