About 50 animals were killed this morning in a tragic fire. The blaze started in the Wet Pets store on Montgomery Highway in Dothan and caused damage to the other stores in the plaza.
The store is home to more than 200 animals and is in a plaza with about four other businesses. However, all business was put on hold, once the fire broke out around 9AM Monday morning.
Employees at a neighboring car wash business noticed smoke coming from the Wet Pets store.
Inside, were hundreds of trapped animals, including rabbits, puppies, fish, rats and birds.
Wet Pets Store Owner Ronnie Barbaree said, "I was fixing to come to work, which was at 9:00, and my friend Nina Powell came to my house and told me the store was on fire. The fire department was here, [when I] came to the store."
When Ronnie arrived, the fire had already been put out, but it wasn't soon enough.
Investigators say the fire was started by a heat lamp in the snake's cage, killing the snake and two rabbits.
Thirty-five ferrets were also in the building, each of them close to where the fire started. Not one of them made it out alive."
However, firefighters helped get hundreds of other pets out unharmed.
"They came to the rescue and rescued all the animals just like a bunch of children at a daycare center,” Barbaree said. “And if it weren't for them, we'd have a bunch of dead babies."
But it's not quite a happy ending. The Wet Pets store does not have insurance to cover its losses and the businesses in the same plaza are also affected.
Beautiful You Store Owner Martha McRea says, "It probably means shut down for my business because people are not going to buy clothes with smoke in them."
Fire department officials say it could be days before the businesses are clean enough to reopen.
The animals that made it out alive are staying with friends and family members of the store owner until the business is cleaned.
Fire officials say unlike this case, most business fires are usually caused by extension cords so they're trying to encourage business owners to stop using them.