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Owner of zebras that escaped in Maryland charged with animal cruelty

Two of the zebras that escaped in August are still on the loose. A third was found dead in a snare trap, but who set it is under investigation.

The owner of three zebras that escaped from a Maryland farm in August, one of which later died in a trap, has been charged with animal cruelty, according to court records.

Jerry Lee Holly, 76, is not accused of setting the illegal snare trap, which was discovered on Sept. 16 near an enclosure where other zebras were kept.

A charging statement obtained by NBC Washington says the 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 document cites that death and the failure to provide for the zebras on the loose for almost two months as evidence of neglect, according to the station.

Online court records did not show an attorney for Holly, and attempts to contact him through phone numbers on public records were not successful Wednesday night.

A spokesperson for the Prince George's County State's Attorney's Office did not return an emailed request for comment Wednesday night.

Maryland Natural Resources Police are investigating who set the snare trap, which is an illegal trap in Prince George's County, a spokesperson for the department of natural resources said Wednesday. It is not clear whether the snare trap was intended to catch one of the zebras.

Holly, who NBC Washington reported is a breeder and trader of exotic animals, is licensed by the federal government to have 39 zebras.

Though it was initially reported that five zebras escaped from the farm in late August, the county Department of the Environment later said only three were ever missing.

Officials are still trying to capture the other two zebras. The plan is to use food to try and attract them into a corral, the environment department has said.

"We continue to be hopeful that the animals at large can be safely returned to the herd," Department of the Environment Director Andrea L. Crooms said in Wednesday's statement.

Another zebra, which was not one of the three animals that escaped, was found dead on the property Tuesday, and an investigation into the death of that animal is ongoing, the environment department said.

Investigations into the facility and how the animals escaped are also ongoing. The department is not currently impounding the remaining zebras, but said it is "exploring all options, and potential partnerships with animal sanctuaries should the animals be removed."