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Five Show Dogs Killed in RV Fire Blaze

Tragedy struck at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa on Tuesday, June 13, 2023, as a fire broke out in an RV, killing five show dogs. It wasn’t until after extinguishing the blaze that investigators came to know of the five dogs — all boxers — who did not survive. The dogs and their owners were in town for The American Kennel Club All-Breed Dog Show. The event was scheduled to begin the following day and last through the weekend.

Video shared by Tampa Bay Times

The RV fire

Late Tuesday afternoon, parking lot bystanders saw smoke billowing from the vents of the vehicle. According to the Tampa Bay Times, reactions of onlookers were mixed. During the time some people tried to enter the RV, others began contacting authorities for help. Heartbreakingly, the fire burned too hot to make rescuing the pups inside possible. Both the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Hillsborough County Fire Rescue responded to calls from the scene. However, by the time Fire Rescue arrived, Chief Rob Herrin estimates over half of the RV was consumed by fire. Videos taken of the incident seem to show the fire beginning at the front of the vehicle. While investigators have ruled out foul play, the cause of the fire remains unknown at this time.

Loss of life

No humans were harmed by the tragic blaze. Officials from the county’s Fire Rescue department did confirm to news outlets that five dogs succumbed to the fire. The names of the dogs’ owners were not released by authorities. However, a verified GoFundMe page has been set up for Rick and Mandy Justice. The Justice Family reportedly owned the RV and is known in show dog circles for both breeding and handling boxers. As of Thursday afternoon, the “Tragic RV Fire in Tampa Dog Show” GoFundMe has been active for two days. The stated purpose of the fundraiser is “to help the handlers and any survivor dogs (if any) get home,” and to “serve as a down payment for another RV.” The campaign has nearly met its $50,000 fundraising goal.

Similar tragedies

Unbelievably, this distressing tragedy isn’t the first story this year of a vehicle catching fire that ends in the loss of a four-legged companion trapped inside. In April, the life of a pitbull named Scooby Doo was cut short after an SUV in South Charleston, West Virginia, erupted into flames. That same month, two dogs died in a fire in Bend, Oregon, that began in a manufactured home.

Protecting dogs from heat, fire, and smoke

While the RV in this tragedy likely had a functioning air conditioning or a cooling system, the unattended vehicles dogs are left in this summer may not. As the mercury climbs in the thermometer, even a few minutes inside a hot car can be a few too many for dogs. Be sure to familiarize yourself with both local Good Samaritan laws and any ordinances on dog safety, as well as what to do after rescuing a dog from a hot car.

It’s also important to brush up on fire safety to keep your pooch safe year-round. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports nearly 40,000 pets a year die from fires in the United States. Sadly, many of them expire from smoke inhalation. Our furry friends are also estimated to start more than 1,000 house fires annually. Check out our fire safety prevention tips to protect your pup.


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