- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The owners of a Lawrence pet store are vowing to rebuild it following a Memorial Day fire that killed an undisclosed number of animals and injured dozens more.

Fire department officials say they have yet to determine a cause in the Monday blaze, which remains under investigation, the Lawrence Journal-World (https://bit.ly/1FamWh5) reported.

Pet World co-owner Sherry Emerson said in a statement posted on the business’ website that the blaze broke out in the store’s backroom, likely near the electrical panels. She said she would “not be announcing a death toll any time soon.”

While many fish, reptiles and arachnids survived the fire, Emerson said a number of mammals and birds died from the fumes. Snakes that died were removed from the store and will be buried.

The business was established 27 years ago by Emerson’s husband, Tim, and has been a community staple for those, particularly children, looking for a friend.

Southwest Middle School teacher Pat Salvatore said the store was more than just a place to purchase animals for her students.

“Over my 24 years (as a Lawrence teacher) I’ve had many students do internships there or worked with the pet because they had an interest in animals,” Salvatore said. “I don’t know if you went to (national chain stores) if they would provide that service for the community.”

It’s unclear how long it will take the owners to rebuild the store. Emerson said the store isn’t accepting donations at this time and that any groups claiming to be raising money for its rebuilding are unauthorized.

“When we were finally alone and it all sank in, Tim and I were able to discuss our options. All he cared about were the kids and what they would do without Pet World in their lives,” she said. “He told me, without a doubt, we will rebuild and bring Pet World back to the Lawrence community as soon as possible.”


Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, https://www.ljworld.com

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