“Ice Cream Cats” rescued from house fire await new homes, but 5 euthanized at Chicago shelter


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The storefront at 1801 Dempster Street where 29 cats are temporarily housed. (Photo by Sam Stroozas)

The Evanston Animal Shelter is hoping someone picks up black walnut, hazelnut coconut and cotton candy. And these three “ice cream cats” have lots of company: dozens were rescued from a house fire in August.

Volunteer Kristi Bachmann and feline director Nancy Maize had to wear hazmat suits, sometimes standing ankle-deep in the water, as they took cat after cat out of the house for several days, from August 16 to the morning of August 20.

Kristi Bachmann and Nancy Maize save the cats. (Photo provided)

“We were told there were only six cats,” Bachmann said, “but he ended up being over 40.”

In the end, 42 cats were rescued from the Dewey Avenue house, all animals that Bachmann said had not been named and had never seen daylight – the windows of the house. had been covered with cardboard and the belongings of the woman who lived there.

The abundance of unnamed animals became the Baskin-Robbins 31 (ish) flavor cats, with a flavor name for each cat, Bachmann explained. Only a few of the Ice Cream Cats have found a home so far.

Currently, 29 cats reside in a rented storefront on Dempster Street where they have decompressed from the trauma they suffered and are preparing to be taken to new loving homes.

Ice cream cats. (Photo by Sam Stroozas)

“It has done wonders for them to be here together, they found a lot of comfort in each other,” said Bachmann, who along with Maize takes care of the cats. “They have come a very long way. “

At first, the cats were terrified, Bachmann said, because of their past life situation. Police said the former resident of the house, a 73-year-old woman, has been charged with endangering animals.

Five cats euthanized without warning at Evanston shelter

In August, when the Evanston animal shelter couldn’t accommodate the massive influx of felines, five cats were sent to the Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago and two to PAWS Chicago.

Animals sent to PAWS and the Anti-Cruelty Society have known very different fates.

The two cats sent to PAWS Chicago each had kittens, one of which died during birth. Kimmie, one of the adult cats, has been adopted, while Marlena, the other adult cat, is now available for adoption at PAWS ‘Lincoln Park center, ideally in a house with another cat. Two of Marlena’s five kittens were adopted; the other three are preparing to be transferred to adoption centers soon.

Marlena is breastfeeding her five kittens. (Photo provided by PAWS Chicago)

The five cats sent to the Ani-Cruelty Society were euthanized without warning at the Evanston Animal Shelter, Bachmann, Maize or Vicky Pasenko, the shelter’s executive director.

Pasenko said the Anti-Cruelty Society responded to an August 16 email it sent asking for shelters in the Chicagoland area to take some of the rescued cats; he said he could take five.

These five cats were transferred to the Anti-Cruelty Society on August 18 and were seen by a vet that afternoon, according to their death certificates which Pasenko later received. A cat bit a vet, which Bachmann said was common.

Almost two hours after entering the Anti-Cruelty Society, the cats were to be euthanized, and on August 19, all five cats were killed, just over 24 hours after their arrival.

On September 7, Pasenko contacted the Anti-Cruelty Society for an update because as part of the police investigation into the fire, he had been asked for the medical records of all cats. She said she received a vague email explaining that the cats were difficult to examine, along with five PDFs. Pasenko said she believed the organization gave the cats time to relax after entering a new environment and did not immediately look at the attachments.

“I’m at a loss for words for what could be the reason”

Pasenko sent a follow-up email later that day saying the Evanston shelter now has space on Dempster Street to pick up cats if they cause any problems. However, she did not receive a response, she said.

It wasn’t until that evening, when she opened the PDF files to view the medical records, that Pasenko saw that the cats had been euthanized.

“I’m at a loss for words for the reason which could be that they were euthanized,” Pasenko said. “They were difficult to deal with at first because of what they had been through. We also experienced this with those we had. I can’t say on behalf of the Anti-Cruelty Society why they decided to euthanize the cats they received, but I believe they were following their standard protocol.

Neither Tracy Elliott, CEO of the Anti-Cruelty Society, nor the organization’s media and communications department responded to Roundtable interview requests. The group’s website has a FAQ section on euthanasia which reads as follows:

“The Anti-Cruelty Society remains an open-admission shelter and we accept all animals that we are legally permitted to keep. We are committed to eliminating euthanasia from adoptable pets and recognize that not all animals are rehabilitated or adoptable due to their medical condition or serious behavioral issues. In some cases, euthanasia may be the most humane decision to prevent further animal suffering. The Anti-Cruelty Society strongly supports and uses only the most humane methods of euthanasia available. “

“We understand the sadness, the anger and the confusion”

Pasenko said she was never told why the five cats were euthanized. She said she received the same general response as other members of the Evanston animal shelter when they asked for an explanation.

In a since-deleted Instagram post, Maize shared her frustration and the Anti-Cruelty Society commented:

“We understand the sadness, anger and confusion this matter has caused. We take our commitment to compassionate care very seriously, which is why we have been in touch with the team at Evanston Animal Shelter and are conducting an internal review. It is heartbreaking to all of us when a decision like this is made. “

Pasenko said no details of an internal review were shared with her or her team.

Ice Cream Cats seek home sweet home

Although the Evanston Animal Shelter lacks answers on the five cats that were euthanized, most of the animals rescued from the fire are doing well.

Each of the Ice Cream Cats at 1801 Dempster Street is waiting for a future home – they have all their vaccines and have been microchipped. Maize said they would most likely need dental treatment in the future and that where possible the shelter would like them adopted in pairs as they are bonded.

“No matter how old these cats are, their lives have only just begun,” Bachmann said. “They are truly survivors.

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