Animal Welfare

Dallas Couple Who Lost at Least 50 Dogs in a Fire Treated Animals Well, Neighbors Say

The 15 dogs that survived an early morning house fire in East Dallas on Tuesday appeared to be well cared for, and other than the two being treated for possible injuries related to the fire, all appear healthy, Dallas Animal Services manager Jody Jones says.

A husband and wife lived with dozens of dogs -- one report says more than 70 -- in their home on Grandview Avenue. The survivors appear to all be Chihuahuas or Chihuahua mixes, Jones says.

The fire department says an electrical problem with the air conditioner is the fire's likely cause. The husband and wife were taken to a local hospital suffering from burns and smoke inhalation. They're expected to survive, but they lost at least 50 of their dogs in the blaze.

The home has a large backyard with a fenced-off space and a shed. A bag of Purina rested among the charred remains.

Why were there so many dogs in that home? Jones' Animal Services has started investigating. All clues so far indicate that the animals were treated OK, and maybe even loved.

Animal Services never received any 311 calls from anyone nearby complaining about the dogs, Jones says. A group of neighbors who were standing outside Tuesday morning declined an interview request, saying only they were concerned about the owners in the hospital.

"The neighbors were extremely nice and supportive and helpful on the scene," Jones says. "They couldn't have expressed enough how much the animals meant to the victims."

A city ordinance bans people from keeping more than eight dogs in their residences. People can apply to get exemptions, though Jones isn't sure yet whether or not the couple had done so.

Pet-hoarding, however, is fairly common. Animal Services says they find people keeping dozens of dogs in their homes a few times a year. Jones cautions again that her agency's investigation is still in the very early stages but adds: "When you see a high number of dogs in the good condition they were in," referring to the 15 survivors, "it's more likely just people that have been in over their heads than someone who was trying to do something intentionally illegal."

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Amy Martyn
Contact: Amy Martyn