Indianapolis pet store fire kills 100 animals

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Firefighters arrived at Uncle Bill’s Pet Center on West 38th Street to find the building filled with smoke.

INDIANAPOLIS — A pet store owner is promising changes to his business after a fire at his store on the west side of Indianapolis killed about 100 animals.

Phil Wilson is the owner of Uncle Bill’s six pet centers in Indiana. The family business started 35 years ago.

“It’s been the best thing possible for me and my family,” Wilson said. “That’s why it’s so devastating.”

Monday night, amid the blizzard, a building alarm called firefighters to Uncle Bill’s store on West 38th Street in Georgetown Plaza. The store was closed. No one was there. The fire was confined to the roof area at the rear of the building and did not spread to other stores in the strip mall. But the smoke inhalation killed around 100 animals inside the pet store, including 40 puppies.

“It’s very difficult because a lot of these animals, and especially puppies, we bond quite quickly,” Wilson said.

The Georgetown Plaza store includes the corporate headquarters and serves as a hub where puppies are received from breeders, then undergo examinations by veterinarians before going to other stores.

No animals were burned in the fire. But 25 parakeets and other miscellaneous animals also died. Some reptiles and fish survived and were transferred to the Greenwood store.


It was there that Wilson worked on a few hours of sleep on Tuesday, wondering what he could have done to prevent the tragedy.

“It’s something we can’t tolerate,” Wilson said. “The community doesn’t want to see this. They rely on us to make sure these animals are well taken care of and we take this seriously. Something went down.”

Wilson is already considering having someone in his stores around the clock. He said there was no reason to believe anyone in the store was responsible for the fire. But Wilson wants to know if there is anything his company could have done to prevent the loss of animals.

Investigators returned to the Georgetown Plaza location on Tuesday looking for the cause of the fire.

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