In escaping the collapse of Sunrise, Florida’s Champlain Towers South, some residents had to do what they never imagined they would do — left pets behind.
And, now that the rest of the apartment building will be demolished by Controlled Demolitions, Inc., residents and area animal lovers are concerned about their pets.
An online petition to stop the demolition until “all animals are safe” has amassed nearly 4,300 signatures. Members of the Facebook group “Rescue the Surfside Cats — Mia & Coco” opined that owners should be allowed back into what’s left of the structure to get their pets out before the demolition now scheduled for Sunday night.
“We’ve been actively searching for days for any pets that remain in the building,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Sunday morning. “We know these are family members and beloved. We will provide a full update on those efforts at our (Sunday evening) briefing.”
Julie Miró, a Miami resident who signed the petition, said she has emailed Levine Cava, Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue to save any animals stuck inside.
“If there were people in there they would have found a way,” Miro said. “But they don’t think animals are as valuable.”
Dahlia Kanes, director of Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation, said it is believed that about five dogs and cats, a guinea pig and some parakeets are still in the building.
She said she spoke with a woman whose dog, Daisy, and two cats were in the living room when the building collapsed. Daisy is the name of the dog in the Edgar Gonzalez family. Gonzalez’s wife and daughter are hospitalized. He’s still missing.
‘It’s not safe for anyone to go beyond the first floor’
“Many in the community have raised this concern (about the building’s pets),” Levine Cava said. “I want to be clear that search and rescue conducted three separate searches, a primary, a secondary and a tertiary. And, they found no animals. I was informed this morning that they did a sweep with cameras and found no animals at this time.”
Firefighters got one fourth-floor family’s dog, Rigatoni, out with the mother and daughter on June 24, in the first hours after the collapse. When someone saw their cat, Coco, on the balcony, firefighters used a cherry picker to leave food and water on the balcony.
But, as for going on a deeper search for pets, the same instability that requires the rest of the South tower’s demolition makes a boots-on-the-ground pet hunt impractical.
“I’ve also been in touch with the contractor and provided locations of of animals that were given to me who might be in the building,” Levine Cava said. “They are aware and doing everything they might do just to make an additional search. But I want to be very clear that they would not be doing that on site because they are not going to be able to go into those units.
“It is not safe for anyone to go beyond the first floor.”
Kanes said her office began receiving calls about the pets since the building collapsed, but that she understands the building is too unstable to send crews in to rescue the pets.
“The reality is grim, most likely all those animals are either dead or in the rubble below,” she said.
Levine Cava said, as a pet owner, she understands that many people consider pets family.
“I just want you to know that additional efforts have been made and are being made.”