MONTCLAIR, NJ - The Township of Montclair is working with Clifton Animal Control to handle strays, injured animals and other situations requiring animal control assistance following a fire that destroyed part of the Montclair Township Animal Shelter on Sunday.

Dozens of dogs and cats were rescued from the Montclair Township Animal Shelter (MTAS) Sunday, after a fire broke out at the rear of the building.

Montclair Fire officials were called to the scene of 77 N. Willow Street sometime around 12:30p.m. After about an hour, most of the fire was under control with only small pockets of fire and smoke remaining. The majority of the damage occurred toward the rear of the building near the dog. 

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Shelter volunteers, Animal Control staff and good Samaritans were on hand to assist in getting the animals to safety quickly. Poor Richards, a local business across the street from the shelter, opened their doors to house the animals until foster homes could be identified. 

Eric Delmar, shelter volunteer stated that he was inside of the building when the fir broke out. He and other volunteers who had been inside and were able to get the animals outside to safety.

Some volunteers stated that they had been bitten, but sustained minor injuries, in trying to rescue the panicked animals. Witnesses stated that almost a dozen additional shelter volunteers were in the building for a volunteer orientation at the time of the blaze.

Around the perimeter of the property, shelter volunteers could be seen holding leashed dogs or carrying cats during the cold weather conditions. Many volunteers stepped in to foster the animals, while Karen of the MTAS walked the property taking inventory of the animals.

Animal shelter employees across the state sprung into action to offer assistance with housing the animals, if needed. Cranford and Elizabeth Animal Shelters offered temporary housing to their Montclair counterparts, while volunteers took to Facebook to also locate foster homes.

By Sunday afternoon, an adoption event that had been planned for April 10, was immediately switched to a fundraising event. Entitled “Our Pound in Town”  The Awareness & Adoption Day Block Party Event is scheduled to take place from 11am to 3pm at the Montclair Township Animal Shelter located at 77 N Willow St, Montclair. 

According to an earlier release, Shelter Director Niki Dawson said, “This special day will be one huge town block party to help raise awareness of the Montclair Township Animal Shelter and all of the community services it provides as “Our Pound in Town”. Come join us as our special sponsor Jeremy Pholwattana, creator and owner of Pit Bull Mate and a local Montclair businessman, gathers together Montclair vendors and friends to provide food, beverages, ice cream, balloons, children’s activities, a DJ, a band and so much more!” 

The MTAS is municipally run and governed by the Township of Montclair. It provides animal care and control for the townships of Montclair, Verona and Nutley. They intake stray animals and pets whose owners are unable to keep them (only for residents of the above stated townships), and offer adoption services for the pets we intake. The area where the fire occurred had just undergone some renovations in the last year to make the shelter conditions more comfortable for the animals.

For further information on the fundraising event, contact jeremy@pitbullmate.com

The cause of the blaze is currently under investigation.

The Township of Montclair released the following statement regarding future animal control matters:

"Due to the damage caused by fire this afternoon to the Montclair Township Animal Shelter, until further notice, the Montclair Police Department will take all calls concerning animal control issues. The Township is working with Clifton Animal Control to handle strays, injured animals and other situations requiring animal control assistance.

Please call the Montclair Police Department main phone number -- 973-744-1234 -- about situations requiring an animal control officer response.

The Township will post a statement from Fire Chief John Herrmann about the Animal Shelter fire later today."