Philadelphia, PA – When disaster strikes, we like to think that our city officials will have a plan in place to help the victims, both human and animal, but this is not the case in Philadelphia. On January 10, 2011 a devastating five-alarm fire in the Windermere Apartment Complex left more than 100 people and their pets homeless. While firefighters rescued at least 6 cats and confirmed other pet deaths the day after the fire, bureaucracy prevented tenants and animal rescuers from entering the building for over a month.
City Kitties, the cat rescue group at the forefront of the cat rescue effort, quickly began listing lost and found Windermere cat information on its website and Facebook page. Two cats that are still unclaimed were found one day after the fire. Three more cats emerged 21, 24, and 31 days after the fire.
Demolition of the building was slated to start on February 14 and expected to take over a month to complete. This despite cats still being sighted inside the burnt-out building. The demolition company told City Kitties that cats do make it out during the demolition process. City Kitties organized a protest rally on February 12 to try to gain access to the building before demolition began so humane traps could be placed inside and tenants could salvage their possessions. That same day, the PSPCA, which has also been working to gain access to the building, was finally allowed to go in and set humane traps inside the building. On February 13, one day before demolition was slated to begin, the PSPCA traps caught one of the missing residents, Sadie. Tenants were finally allowed access before demolition began, but by then looters had taken some of their belongings.
Another animal rescue group, Project M.E.O.W, stepped up and agreed to trap around the Windermere building with the hopes of reuniting more families with their pets. Throughout the whole process, the city did nothing to help residents or animal rescuers. 37 days after the fire, another cat was caught in a humane trap. Two day after that, on February 18, another cat was caught. While most of the rescued cats have lost weight, Rocco is the first cat to have suffered medically due to his ordeal. He has suffered liver damage due to starvation. Six cats are still missing.
On February 17, while the Windermere cats were still being recovered, another fire burnt an 18 unit apartment complex. At least two cats from that complex have also been reported missing.
Philadelphia’s lack of planning caused undue suffering to Windermere’s pet population and prevented many tenants from gaining access to their belongings for over a month. City Kitties is demanding change. On their website, they write:
The current emergency animal rescue protocol failed the Windermere cats. As the February 17 fire at 4500 Walnut demonstrates, we have no time to waste. As animal advocates and Philadelphians, we must demand immediate action and long-term change from the City of Philadelphia. We must ensure that no animal needlessly suffers in an abandoned building for 39 days ever again.
Source: City Kitties
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