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Indiana zebra dies stuck in fence; charges considered

DELPHI, Ind. — The death of a zebra on an Indiana farm during last week’s blast of Arctic weather remains under investigation.

A veterinarian with the Indiana State Board of Animal Health has consulted with local authorities on the death, said Denise Derrer, communications director with BOAH out of Indianapolis. She said BOAH's role in the investigation won't likely become more significant unless requested by local authorities.

The zebra was found dead Jan. 30 on a farm outside Delphi, about 60 miles northwest of Indianapolis. Repeated attempts to reach Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby for comment were not successful.

However, according to an Associated Press report, Leazenby said the BOAH investigators ruled the back hooves of the zebra became stuck in some outdoor fencing. He said the animal, unable to free itself, panicked and inhaled enough of the subzero-degree air to cause death.

AP also reported Leazenby said the farm had adequate food, water and shelter for its animals. Another zebra outside survived the weather, while kangaroos also on the property were kept inside a shelter, according to AP.

According to radio station WLFI, a police report is being filed with the Carroll County Prosecutor's Office for a decision on whether the death was accidental or as a result of neglect. The name of the zebra’s owner has not been released.

Ideally, Derrer said farm animals in such frigid conditions should be kept indoors, to guard against wind chills such as last week’s, which plummeted to 60 degrees below zero in some places. She said extreme wind chills quickly sap the energy out of animals that need easy access to more hay and other feed, for keeping up their energy levels.

Animals inside or outside during such harsh weather should also have more water and bedding available to help stay warm. Farmers should also make sure to replace water that turns to ice. "Snow is not good enough,” Derrer explained.

She said the coats on animals naturally become longer and thicker to help insulate them when temperatures nosedive, but extra feed, water and bedding assist their odds of survival. "That's how God made them.”

Derrer said easy access to more food, water and bedding is even more critical for older animals, calves and animals who have health issues.

She was not aware of any other farm animals in the state perishing during the cold snap that saw real temperatures plummet to 20 degrees below zero and even colder in some locations throughout the Midwest.

She said BOAH sometimes doesn't assist in cases where a death occurs, if local animal control authorities have the resources to adequately conduct the entire investigation in-house.