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Joe Spano has owned Aqua-Rama Pet Center in Fayetteville, North Carolina, for more than 40 years. When the pet store went up in flames on Sunday night, he and his family rushed to the scene to try to rescue as many animals as possible.
Sadly, despite the best efforts of the family and the Fayetteville Fire Department, only a small number of creatures survived the blaze.
Shayanne Orme, Spano's granddaughter, told The Fayetteville Observer that about 3% of the hundreds of animals inside Aqua-Rama that night lived. Three snakes, a rabbit, a few turtles, some freshwater fish, and a badly injured scarlet macaw are all that remain.
"That's what my pop is upset about," she told the paper. "He's not upset about the building, he's upset about all the animals that were in it."
Thanks to a tremendous response from the community, all of the surviving animals have reportedly been re-homed. That's a huge relief for Spano, who told The Fayetteville Observer this his priority was to save as many as possible.
"It was my life. To be honest with you, my family's life, my grandkids, everybody," a heartbroken Spano told ABC11.
"We lost so many animals that my dad especially truly loved and cared for everyday for the past 42 years!" Trivette explains on the GoFundMe page. "Every penny is appreciated from the bottom of our hearts!"
As for the modest blue building Spano has owned since 1984? The family describes it as a total loss. To make matters worse, they didn't have insurance. What they do have, however, is faith.
"We'll go on," Spano told ABC11. "We trust in God, so we're going to go on."
Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire.