Cause of Fire Above Pet Shop Still Unclear; Owner Says Pets Are Safe

Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals is investigating Monday's fire above Pick of the Litter, which killed five dogs living above the shop.

Though the circumstances surrounding - remain unclear, the man who says he owned the pet shop below the fire, and lived in the unit where the fire began, says all the animals are safe with friends, while the Suffolk Society for the Prevention of the Cruelty of Animals is investigating the incident for any potential wrongdoings at the pet store.

Stopped as he was leaving the store on late Tuesday morning, nearly 24 hours after the East Main Street fire shut down traffic and required aid from several nearby fire departments, a man who only identified himself as John said he was the owner of Pick of the Litter. He declined to give his last name, calling himself "a target" of "all the politically correct people."

The man said that following the fire - which he says started in his own two-bedroom apartment above his store - all of his shop's animals were able to find refuge with friends and family.

"I’m lucky and blessed we have friends in the area, so not one of our animals had to go to a shelter," he said.

Several reports published online, including a News12 report and even a review on , identify the owner as a man named John O'Donnell. However messages left with the Department of Agriculture and Markets, which regulates pet dealers in New York State, were not immediately returned.

John said that the five dogs that died in the fire were all his own personal dogs, that lived upstairs in his apartment. He added that he spoke with the Smithtown Fire Marshal's Office on Tuesday morning, and heard that the cause of Monday's fire was an electrical surge, in an outlet housing his Playstation, a light, and a television.

Repeated messages left with the Smithtown Department of Public Safety were not returned this week.

Suffolk County SPCA Chief Roy Gross said on Thursday that his office is investigating the incident - though would not comment on details about the incident, and could not put a timeline on how long it might take to come to a conclusion. And just because his office is investigating, does not necessarily mean any violations will be forthcoming.

"It could take days, it could take weeks, it could take months," he said. "However long it takes, it takes. The most important thing is safeguarding the animals after something like this happens. If there is no wrongdoing, so be it."

Gross said his office - which relies on donations, and is not affiliated with the larger ASPCA in Manhattan - is overworked and understaffed, and calls reporting animal abuse or cruelty are not slowing down. As a matter of fact, he believes they've picked up in recent years as a down economy has made caring for animals all the harder. The staff of 55 has fallen from 60 in recent years, and Gross said he relies heavily on volunteers.

According to article 26A of the Agriculture and Markets Law, there is no minimal square footage necessary for pet dealers to provide animals: "Sufficient space to allow each animal adequate freedom of movement to make normal postural adjustments, including the ability to stand up, turn around, and lie down with its limbs outstretched."

Gross said his office ensures those standards are met, and that basic sustenance is given to animals in the care of people.

John said Tuesday he as always kept care of his animals, and will be working with the town to re-open as soon as he can, despite the critics of pet dealers he is well aware of.

"I have an inventory around 40 dogs. I'm not like other places, where you might see 100 at a time," he said. "If you haven’t taken a dog from me personally, you’re going to listen to Oprah and all the politically correct people, because they say we’re all bad. Most of them are. I went into this business because I knew that and didn’t want to do it that way."

crookhaven August 14, 2012 at 01:34 AM
the guy burns his own dogs alive. real sweet guy, im sure. another filthy torture for profit animal business.......
crookhaven August 14, 2012 at 01:37 AM
yes, tell us your professional findings on the cause of the fire. and what homes should the dead dogs find?
crookhaven August 14, 2012 at 01:46 AM
hey walter, in this country u can have outrage over whatever u want. it is not up to u or any other entity to dictate our feelings or our free speech. u are free to save the town from vandals as we are free to protest another puppy mill outlet. this is our america not just yours!
Ralph August 15, 2012 at 11:27 AM
I can only hope everyone is speaking out of personal experiences at p o l and not negative b/s posting. That including lies and half truth about p o l.do ur homework nd then tell ur stories.p o l is no mill.write what u wish.........this is the land of the free.
Mary August 23, 2012 at 10:55 PM
We bought a beautiful Havanese 3 yrs ago there. We were lucky! She was expensive but so worth it. I am sorry about the fire and the loss of the animals. Two of them were most likely our dogs mom and dad, Oscar and Sugar. We were permitted to see Oscar but not the mom at the shop. We were promised papers for our dog but I gave up calling John after 7 attempts. I left messages with the female groomer but received no return calls. When we took our pup to our vet he also told us our puppy was a bit older than we had been told and was infested with ear mites. I will leave it at that.


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