11 Dogs Die in New Jersey House Fire: Officials

Two cats are also believed dead in the fire

A large fire ripped through a New Jersey home containing several animals, sending up a ball of fire and heavy black smoke before part of it collapsed under the heat, killing 11 dogs inside, officials say. 

It's not clear what sparked the devastating fire in Clifton Monday afternoon, though authorities don't consider it suspicious. 

"It seemed to progress pretty quickly, seemed to be happening in the back of the house," said neighbor Jenna Ricciardi. 

It appeared to start as smoke coming from an annex to the house, but the fire quickly took over, officials said. The roof later collapsed under the heat.

No people were inside at the time, but there were numerous animals in the house, which was operating as a pet day care, though health officials say there was no registered listing for a business at the address. 

The operators of Your Family Pet Sitters, Tom and Laura Kieffer, promote daily and long-term care for pets from Laura Kieffer's mother's home. 

"It's really hard because we care so much about those animals," said homeowner Joan Maso. 

Tom Kieffer said he loved the animals he watched as if they were his own, but neighbors wondered if the outcome could have been different had the business been properly registered and vetted.

"It bothers me to know there were 11 dogs in there, and if you're sitting for the dogs, then you have to have some kind of backup plan for an emergency," said Justine Paitchell.

Officials say the bodies of the 11 dogs were recovered from the fire, and two are still missing but presumed dead. Two cats are still missing and also believed dead. 

Two dogs made it out of the home safely. 

Fire investigators, the ASPCA and police were on the scene. Three firefighters were taken to the hospital for minor injuries, mainly heat exhaustion, officials said. 

Contact Us