Fire at Eugene’s Zany Zoo — losses less than feared, recovery in progress

Zany Zoo Pets in Eugene was a smoke-filled scene of devastation in the early hours of Nov. 6th after a fire broke out in the reptile room of the store — which was filled with creatures ranging from exotic snakes to puppies. In the aftermath of the flames, it appeared nearly 100 animals had perished. Zany Zoo co-owner Nate McClain was devastated to see “the culmination of five years of 24-hour hard work” in shambles. The cause of the fire is not yet known, he says. Despite early reports that the reptiles’ heaters had overloaded a circuit, McClain said the heaters were drawing less current than a refrigerator would.

As McClain began sorting through the chaos, he learned things were not as bad as they first seemed; there were more survivors then originally thought. Firefighters had managed to save almost half the reptiles in the room where the fire started. Four puppies — three small mixed-breed dogs and one Chihuahua — were all safe, as were a of couple cats being boarded.

The store sells both exotic and domestic pets. They strive, according to their website, to help people make educated decisions not only about what kind of pet will best fit their family, but to educate people about proper care.

In total, the small family-owned store lost about half of its 56 reptiles to the fire, plus 15 parakeets, two cockatiels and a canary to smoke inhalation. One tank of feeder rats died, but according to McClain, “everyone else was fine.” All the petting zoo animals survived, including an 80 lb. tortoise; a coati (kind of Central American raccoon, says McClain), sugar gliders and two Maras, giant rodents. One of the Maras was found to have jumped out of its cage during the fire, but firefighters found the giant rodent “walking around through the rubble,” McClain said.

The shop has been pressure washed, and smoke-damaged cages scrubbed or replaced. McLain says, “No income for two weeks has made it difficult to get funding for new cages.”

McClain is delighted so many of his animals survived and says thanks to “a huge response from the community” — 90-95 percent of the pets are currently in foster homes. The animals are spread all over town, he says, and he checks in on them almost daily. Right now McClain’s primary focus is getting the store up and running again. He expects to be open in a new location before Christmas.

The community has continued to help Zany Zoo get on its feet, with a fundraising dinner at a local pizza restaurant. If you’d like to help, donations can be made to the Zany Zoo fund at any Oregon Community Credit Union.