PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Fire Department announced Thursday that it will continue Red Paw Emergency Response Team services in the city, through training their Community Action Team responders to deal with the critical needs of pets affected by fires.
In August, Red Paw announced that after nine years, its volunteer model was unsustainable and that they would be forced to cease operations by Oct. 1 if the fire department did not integrate their services. Among the 8,000 families Red Paw has helped over the years, there is a lot of relief that fire victims with pets will still receive critical, emergency help.
Kate Barnes still gets emotional talking about the Jan. 10, 2011 five-alarm fire that destroyed the West Philadelphia apartment building where she lived. The fire was so intense, firefighters forced her to evacuate before she could get her three cats.
“When us tenants had no hope of ever seeing our pets again, they were persistent in trying to get back in there,” Barnes said of Red Paw volunteers.
Red Paw officially formed after that fire, when firefighter Jen Leary saw how many tenants had to leave pets behind. A month after losing everything she owned, Barnes received word that Red Paw found her cats.
“A whole 30 days after the fire, that’s a testament to how long they didn’t give up, my pets were found. All three of them,” Barnes said.
Once all volunteer-driven, Red Paw, along with the Philadelphia Fire Department, Office of Emergency Management and The Red Cross, announced Thursday afternoon that their pet rescue services will now be integrated into the fire department’s existing Community Action Teams (CATs), who are on standby to respond to fire victims’ needs.
”I am pleased that Red Paw will continue to be one of our critical partners in serving all of our residents, businesses and visitors 24/7, 365,” said Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel at a news conference announcing the new partnership.
With the emergency response now taken care of, Red Paw will continue as a nonprofit foundation that will fundraise to provide food and supplies, pet-friendly accommodations and medical care to pets in the city affected by fires.
“I couldn’t think of a better solution for the residents,” said Red Paw Chief Operating Officer Lori Albright. “It’s for the people. All we ever wanted to do was to make sure that people with pets are not overlooked and the fire department understands that.”
While Red Paw services will continue in the city, what will happen in the suburbs is up in the air. Albright says it’ll be up to those fire departments whether to follow Philadelphia’s lead.