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Johnson City zoo animals killed in attack

Exotic Resort Zoo in Johnson City

Exotic Resort Zoo officials believe dogs attacked and killed several sheep and lambs in the petting area of the Johnson City facility, which offers guided tours to view and feed a variety of animals. File photo

Dogs attacked and killed 10 sheep and lambs in the Exotic Resort Zoo’s petting area overnight Wednesday, Dec. 29, into Thursday, according to an official at the Johnson City attraction that offers tours to view and feed a variety of animals as well as cabins for overnight stays.

Manager Kali Trahan, whose family owns the resort, said the losses are heavy and staff are investigating how the dogs got in so they can protect the other animals.

“The ones that were affected were hand raised,” she said of the sheep and lambs, who all had names. “They were bottle fed as babies. These were special ones.”

She said the attacking animals were definitely dogs, noting the canines “came running up” to a staff member who was feeding the zoo’s animals Thursday morning. 

“One hundred percent confident,” Trahan said. “We monitor our fence line constantly. They must have found a hole. The petting zoo is enclosed in the middle of the property. They had to travel through at least one of our pastures.”

The dogs are now in a secure location, where they will be checked for microchips with the aim of finding the owners. If zoo staff can’t locate the owners, the dogs will be taken to a shelter.

“We are devastated by the situation,” Trahan said, “but it’s natural to (the dogs to attack prey animals). Right now, you feel like you missed something. But, we’ll do everything we can to make sure our babies are safe.”

According to a social media post by the resort announcing the deaths of the animals, staff are also aware that a visitor might have recorded the aftermath of the attacks “with the intent to share and defame our name.” 

Trahan would not comment on that.

Though staff feel the losses deeply, the Exotic Resort Zoo, 235 Zoo Trail in Johnson City, is open for business throughout the New Year’s holiday weekend. Hours are 9 a.m.-6 p.m., though visitors are asked to arrive no later than 4:30 p.m.