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Several searching for lost pets after devastating downtown Maple Ridge fire

Fire started around midnight on Friday

A little black cat, with a singed tail and back legs, was reunited with his owner after escaping a devastating fire in Maple Ridge that razed several structures and left hundreds displaced this past weekend.

Shauntel, who lives nearby, discovered the kitty hiding in the rear of her backyard and posted the photo to social media, where the online community is trying to reunite owners and their missing pets.

Shauntel said the cat had made a little burrow in the back of the yard where she stores her Halloween decorations. Her son, Joseph Godbout, 14, was able to get the cat into their house and patted it down with a warm, damp cloth.

“He was whining and crying,” described Shauntel, who thought they might be hurting him. The cat would end up walking into their living room and plopped himself on the couch, where he slept all night.

“He didn’t get up off the couch until early afternoon, when he finally ate,” she noted.

The cat, Shauntel finally discovered, is named Sylvester, and belongs to the people who lived in the house right behind hers – a house that is no longer habitable because it also caught fire in the blaze.

Sylvester is one of the lucky ones to make it home. On Monday, at least one pet owner was still at the scene searching for one of his three cats.

Kahlee Demers, branch manager of the Maple Ridge B.C. SPCA, said that right now they are using a dedicated stray book for animals that were specifically impacted by this fire.

By Wednesday, June 14, she was still getting more than 20 calls a day about stray animals in the area and she knows of at least 10 people still looking for their pets, whom the branch has had contact with. And officer also attended the scene on Wednesday because of the number of calls about wandering animals.

“We were able to rescue a cat around the effected apartment,” she said.

The branch is taking lost reports, for people who have lost their pets in the fire, and they are also taking found reports – either of which Demers is asking people to call the branch directly.

“We could potentially have the owner’s contact information or we can send you directly to the vet in case we think that the animal does need vet care,” she explained, noting that fire damage can be life threatening if not taken care of right away. They also have the ability to scan for microchips or check for tattoos and can also take a lost animal in and either have it ready to go to foster care or try and find its owner.

Staff are also tracking sightings of the animals.

“If anyone sees an animal in the area or they think they may have been in a recent fire, if they look a little dishevelled or anything, to give us a call as well,” she said.

Currently they are emergency boarding two dogs from the fire, because the owner doesn’t have anywhere for their pets to stay right now – another service the SPCA is providing for those pet owners who have been impacted. Both dogs were still at the shelter on Wednesday, said Demers, and being spoiled.

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They have already helped to reunify five families with their lost pets because community members contacted them with a found report and the SPCA had the contact information for the owners.

Demers explained that when an emergency situation like this happens, first and foremost they reach out to emergency services to see if they need their help.

She also stocked the pet food bank at the SPCA Maple Ridge branch to serve anyone who needed help.

Then, Demers continued, they made sure they had rooms available at the shelter for those who needed it, even for a quick safe space. This required moving as many animals as she could into foster care – as they do only have limited space.

“Luckily we haven’t maxed out yet,” she said.

ALSO: Maple Ridge officials praise emergency responders for handling of devastating fire

Right now the shelter is not accepting any intakes from outside of Maple Ridge, just in case there is an influx of animals from this event.

Their bylaws officers are patrolling the area of the fire, with crates, kennels, carriers, and leashes in their vehicles ready to go, as they search for lost animals. Demers is also looking for more foster families to take in animals.

The shelter is not in need of donations at this point in time, just community support, said Demers.

“Don’t be shy, if you think that an animal might have been in the fire to please make that call because that call could potentially save that animal’s life,” she said.

The Maple Ridge branch of the BC SPCA can be reached at 604-463-9511.

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Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

Colleen Flanagan is an award-winning multimedia journalist with more than 15 years experience in the industry.
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