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Dozens of animals die in fire at shelter

Published April 9, 2007


JACKSONVILLE - A blaze that gutted a Humane Society shelter killed dozens of animals, including almost all the cats, authorities said Sunday.

About 70 firefighters responded Saturday to the 2 a.m. blaze at the Jacksonville Humane Society's main shelter building, which housed cats, dogs and exotic animals.

Humane Society Executive Director Leona Sheddan estimated 175 to 200 animals, mostly dogs and cats, were in the facility, but said it could take a few days to account for all the animals and get an accurate death toll.

Determining the cause of the blaze also will be difficult because of extensive damage to the building, said Jacksonville Fire and Rescue spokesman Tom Francis. The blaze did not appear to be suspicious, he said.

Most dogs escaped serious injury because the kennels are in the back. Sheddan said some animals normally in the building may have been taken to foster homes, but she said dozens of cats apparently died in the fire. Firefighters confirmed many animals did not escape.

"With a great degree of certainty, one could say virtually the entire population of cats at the Humane Society perished," Francis said.

The blaze destroyed the main building, valued at about $1-million. Other buildings on the 10-acre property, including the dog kennels, are still operational, Sheddan said.

Firefighters rescued as many animals as possible before fire drove them back, Francis said. One firefighter suffered minor injuries when the building's roof partially collapsed. He was "doing fine" on Sunday, Francis said.

"Our protection of life policy extends to all living creatures," Francis said.

[Last modified April 9, 2007, 01:21:56]

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