UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (WDVM) — Zebras have been on the loose in Prince George’s County for almost two months. After multiple failed attempts to capture the exotic animals and return them to the farm they escaped from, the owner and caretaker now have a new plan to get them home safely.

The Prince George’s County Animal Services Facility and Adoption Center are in constant communication with the owner and caretaker of the animals, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The government agencies are not only in communication but are also observing to ensure the new plan goes smoothly.

To catch the two zebras still on the loose, the owner and caretaker are working through plans that will bring in two more zebras from the herd to corral the others. The zebras being brought in will be in an enclosure in the center of the corralled area.

The plan is to use these zebras and food to attract the at-large zebras into the corral, so that they may be returned to the herd without any risk of injury or harm. The USDA and the Department of the Environment Animal Services staff believe this is the best approach proposed with the least amount of risk to the at-large zebras.

The zebras escaped from an exotic pet farm on Duley Station Road at the end of August. A total of three zebras were on the loose in Prince George’s County, though original reports stated there were five zebras loose. Unfortunately, the caretaker reported to county officials that one zebra got caught in a snare trap and died in early September, leading to an investigation into the placement of snares by the DNR.

The death of the zebra and the overall fact of the zebras being loose in the wild prompted a response from the Humane Society of the United States.

“The sad fate of this zebra underscores the seriousness of this issue – both from the cruelty of captive exotic animal ownership and operations to the dangerous and barbaric use of traps.

The owner of the farm from where the zebras escaped –Jerry Holly– is a UDSA licensed breeder with locations in Maryland and Florida. He has a long list of federal Animal Welfare Act violations and was fined $12,143 by the USDA in 2013 for violations that include inadequate veterinary care, unsafe enclosures, inadequate shelter, enclosures in disrepair, filthy conditions, and failure to maintain records of acquisition and disposition.

While Maryland has some restrictions against owning wild animals as pets, the law still allows some species to be kept in private homes, where their ‘owners’ are not able to properly provide for their care and well-being. In addition to the breeding farm owned by Holly, there have been sales of baby zebras at an auction house in Thurmont the last two months. Zebras and other exotic animals are not meant to be pets or by unqualified facilities, as this Maryland zebra ownership, escape and now tragic death has further proven.

The terrible fate of this zebra also shows how lax our laws are on trapping. Last year the Maryland legislature almost passed a bill that would have expanded the use of barbaric snare traps in the state. This sad situation is evidence that snare traps are dangerous – and too often catch unintended victims – sometimes people or pets. The legislature must learn from this and take steps to prohibit the use of cruel and indiscriminate snare traps across the state.” 

Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, Maryland State Director, Humane Society of the United States

Right now, there are no charges brought against the owner or caretaker.

“Our priority is to make sure the zebras are captured and returned to the herd,” says Department of Environment Director Andrea L. Crooms. “Once this is accomplished, the County will conduct a further investigation, and any actions including any appropriate charges against the owner will be evaluated.”

The public is asked to continue to report any sightings of the zebras to Prince George’s County 311.

This is not the first time the DMV has had zebras on the loose. Back in 2011, two zebras escaped from the Leesburg Animal Park Petting Zoo and roamed through nearby neighborhoods before being captured by Animal Control.