NEWS AND COMMENT: There is a shocking headline online today: Nearly 100 pets die in Florida house fire – including 91 trapped cats. That’s from the New York Post. This was a “pet-stuffed” home of an animal hoarding Florida couple. For years I have written about the need to at least set some fire regulation standards in homes where there are many cats. It might be impractical to do this but even regulations which cannot be enforced have the effect of raising standards.
What I have suggested in the past is that if a home has more than 10 cats the owners of that property should be subject to the same regulations regarding fire prevention as other buildings of multiple occupation such as office blocks or a customised version of them. The reason why I have suggested this is because with relentless regularity we hear of cats dying in house fires and often these are multi-cat homes and even rescue centres. And this fire prevention standard would help curb cat hoarding.
Are rescue centres in America subject to far regulations which make it mandatory to have fire prevention systems in place? I don’t think they do.
In this instance, no people were injured which is typical of a house fire in which there are many cats. The people get out, which is entirely understandable, but the cats remain to die in the fire. I don’t think it’s fair. On occasions firefighters are able to enter the building and rescue some animals.
Apparently, this cat hoarding couple rescued cats. Good for them. But it appears that they overdid it. However, it must be stated that local animal control officers had visited the property and confirmed that the animals were being cared for to a decent standard. So perhaps, technically, this is not a cat hoarding situation. Certainly, it isn’t a typical one because normally cat hoarders lose control and are unable to cope which leads to cats suffering ill health from neglect.
The problem appears to be in that the couple did not know when to stop rescuing cats. And this happens. The desire to help has no bounds. They want to rescue cats and they want to help them but everybody has a limit both in terms of their abilities and their facilities. And of course, funding is always an issue.
A veterinarian characterised the home as that of a hoarder. Neighbours had tried to intervene in the past with two reports to the authorities about animal cruelty but on investigation, as mentioned, there are no obvious signs of neglect.
Jacksonville, Florida does not limit the number of cats that can live inside a single home. The cause of the blaze is unknown. There are discussions in some jurisdictions about limiting cat numbers in private homes. I am one of those who favour limits.
In the UK, homes of multiple occupation (by humans!) have to comply with certain regulations. I would suggest that when organising the occupation of a home by a hundred cats there should be a similar requirement because we are talking about sentient beings who are meant to be cared for to a decent standard by humans. Some sort of proactive steps need to be taken to prevent this kind of tragedy, surely?