Over 40 animals dead following large blaze at Arkansas petting zoo

Volunteer AP.jpeg
Posted at 4:25 PM, Feb 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-26 17:25:52-05

AUSTIN, Ark. (AP) — Dozens of animals including prairie dogs, lemurs and hedgehogs were killed when a fire broke out in a barn at an Arkansas petting zoo, according to a woman who volunteers at the zoo.

At a news conference Friday, Jennifer Williams, who volunteers at Cockrill’s Country Critters, estimated that 40 to 50 animals died in Thursday’s fire in a barn at the petting zoo near Austin, located about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of Little Rock.

Williams said most of the animals died due to smoke inhalation. She said some reptiles, including snakes and iguanas, survived.

Austin Fire Chief Chris Nelson told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the cause of the fire is still under investigation. He said damage was confined to a room, and there was no structural damage.

Zoo owner Janice Cockrill-Griffin told newspaper via text on Friday that she was “devastated.”

“Those were my babies and they all had a special place in my heart,” she said.

Cockrill-Griffin said most of the petting zoo’s animals were killed in the fire.

“Our Capuchin monkey lives with us and our baby kangaroos were being bottle-fed and they are safe,” Cockrill-Griffin said. “I’m so thankful for that.”