20 animals died in Matawan on April 5 Pet store fire

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MATAWAN, NJ – New information has emerged about the April 5 fire in Matawan, where a longtime beloved Mexican restaurant, Aby’s, was completely destroyed, and nearby pet store, Feather Fabulous Birds, suffered serious damage.

The fire broke out at 2:30 a.m. inside the Mexican restaurant. The fire started in a bag of towels that had just been returned from the dry cleaners earlier in the day, according to Victor Santucci, the owner of the pet store.

The towels still contained traces of grease and the dry cleaning chemicals that were on the towels acted as an accelerant, starting the fire. The towels were inside a plastic bag and the bag could be seen on security cameras burning, Santucci said. He said firefighters told him the official cause was “spontaneous combustion”.

The fire destroyed Aby’s interior and spread to his pet store, which sells birds, reptiles and small furry animals like ferrets.

Tragically, 15 animals died in their cages from smoke inhalation that night: several birds, a few different reptiles, a guinea pig and a rabbit, the pet store owner said.

Hundreds of other animals were inside the store at the time, and Santucci said he saw firefighters and Monmouth County SPCA officers walk in and out of the store on fire, setting hundreds of animals safe.

All animals were examined and treated free of charge by Red Bank Veterinary Hospital, and Santucci said he was very touched and impressed by their kindness in offering to do so.

Sadly, five other animals later died from smoke inhalation, including several finches and a bearded dragon.

Santucci said insurance inspectors deemed his store uninhabitable due to smoke and water damage and that he had to find emergency housing for 250 small animals, including birds, reptiles, snakes, ferrets, chinchillas, hamsters, rats, guinea pigs, hermit crabs and betta fish. .

“It’s been such a nightmare,” Santucci said. “I’ve been told that all the pet food in my store has to be thrown away; it all has to go. You’re just not prepared for a tragedy like this to happen.”

This GoFundMe page was created for the family that owned Aby’s, a Matawan institution for 20 years: https://www.gofundme.com/f/aby…

And this GoFundMe was launched for Feather Fabulous Birds: https://gofund.me/f8fe13b6

Santucci said all the money donated will be used to buy food for 250 animals currently in foster care. He plans to reopen his pet store and is currently looking for a location around Matawan/Aberdeen.

“I’m really, really planning to reopen,” Santucci said.

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