On March 5, a fire broke out at the Last Chance Cat Ranch in Lethbridge, Alberta, a sanctuary and shelter for elderly cats. Owner and operator Elizabeth Ginn wasn’t home at the time, but her son was — and that’s the only reason any of the 60 cats in Last Chance’s care survived. He ran around the house and opened windows and doors to give the cats a chance to flee the fire.
Despite the efforts of Ginn’s son, at least 30 cats died in the fire. Thirty survivors are being treated at an area vet clinic, and the search for survivors is ongoing.
Ginn is heartbroken over the loss and, of course, has to deal with insurance and other issues while trying to process her grief and deal with the fates of the cats currently under vet care, seven or eight of whom are in critical condition.
But she’s not going it alone.
Rescue groups all over the province have spread the word about Last Chance’s tragedy and begun to collect funds, food, blankets, and anything else the cats might need.
"Our animals are our family. They are the voiceless and we just want be there to help them so we all try rally around each other when tragedy strikes," No-Kill Animal Association volunteer Jane Nygaard told Global Lethbridge.
The Lethbridge PAW Society is helping to collect donations for Last Chance Cat Ranch and has put out a call for its own volunteers to help foster the Last Chance cats until Ginn can rebuild.
Area businesses are collecting donations of money and supplies. TV and radio stations are spreading the word. And on April 13, a Facebook auction will be held to raise funds for Last Chance.
Meanwhile, the entire social pet world is buzzing about Last Chance. Rescues began sharing the news of Last Chance’s plight and pet lovers across Facebook and Twitter are providing a "signal boost," which will hopefully give Last Chance another chance soon.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen rescue groups come to one another’s aid. When the Animalkind shelter in New York was destroyed by a flood, fellow rescuers (including my good friend Robin Olson, author of the Covered in Cat Hair blog) came forward to help the organization rebuild.
And there are lots of other examples.
"Rescue groups say they’re part of a large family," said CBC reporter Terry Vogt, who covered the Last Chance Ranch story.
It’s true. We are one big family — dysfunctional at times, yes, but like any family, we come together to help our own in their hour of need.
You can keep up to date with Last Chance Cat Ranch and find out how you can help the rebuilding efforts by following LCCR’s Facebook page.
Five-alarm tissue alert: This tribute video was created by Virginia of Little Cats Lost in Edmonton, Alberta.
What’s your favorite story of shelters working together to help each other after tragedy strikes? Please tell us in the comments.