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Miami condo collapse: People continue to agonize about pets left behind

The Palm Beach Post logo The Palm Beach Post 7/9/2021 Katherine Lewin, Palm Beach Post
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SURFSIDE — As rescuers continue to search for survivors in the pile of rubble that was once the Champlain Towers South condominium, some people are hoping there will be further rescue efforts to save a handful of pets in the portion of the building still standing. 

The Friends of Miami Animals Foundation set up a hotline soon after the Surfside building collapsed last Thursday so that people who had to evacuate or were rescued could report their pets missing or ask for medical assistance and boarding for their animals. 

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Since then, there have been around 100 calls, according to Yolanda Berkowitz, founder and president of the Friends of Miami Animals Foundation. A few were from people concerned about their pets missing in the evacuated buildings—so far, several parakeets, at least three cats, a guinea pig and a dog have been officially reported missing. 

A photo of Mia, a cat that is missing in the Champlain Towers south condo collapse © Andrew West/The News-Press, The News-Press A photo of Mia, a cat that is missing in the Champlain Towers south condo collapse

Video: Video: Florida condo partially collapses overnight (The Palm Beach Post)

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But many of the calls are from people upset with what they perceive as limited animal rescue efforts, including suggestions that first responders use jetpacks and helicopters to try to get the animals or that people call Gov. Ron DeSantis and urge him to take action. People have also volunteered to go into the evacuated buildings themselves and attempt a rescue. 

"Animals are a priority, but you can't put people at risk to go up to a balcony and set a cat trap," Berkowitz said, adding that the first responders must also be kept safe. She told USA Today she has not heard of any more efforts to leave food and water on balconies for any pets still alive. 

"My guess is they're only doing what they have to do to recover bodies and help people," Berkowitz told USA Today. "I know if (the first responders) had seen any animals they would have attempted to get them out."  

The group still hopes to create an official database for the missing Surfside pets, including the unit number they were living in, gender and owner.

Mia, a gray cat that lived in the building with her owner Susana Alvarez who managed to escape, has been making the rounds on social media, along with another cat named Coco. 

"I talked to (Alvarez) last week," Berkowitz said. "It's really getting to everyone...Someone just emailed me, 'Well, if there were children in the building, they would do anything necessary to save them.' Well, yeah, they would! Animal welfare is my work and my passion, but I can't lose sight of the fact that first responders are risking their lives." 

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Miami condo collapse: People continue to agonize about pets left behind

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