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Jacksonville Shelter Fire: Picking up the pieces

April 10, 2007 - Amy Jo Hanna-Eckenrode

It has taken me 2 days to write about Sunday’s horrific fire that destroyed much of the Jacksonville, FL Humane Society in which more than 90 animals perished. But, it is necessary. I guess I wish my world could be filled with (golden) sunshine and daisies all the time. That’s not reality and that’s not life.

I was preparing Easter dinner when the story broke on CNN. My heart sank as I watched footage of the blazing inferno. My mind could not stop replaying the scenario faced by firefighters who battled the blaze for more than three hours. Room after room, locked cage after locked cage, 200 helpless animals trapped inside. It was unbearable.

A firewall separating the dog kennels did its job and saved the majority. Sadly, most of the cats, 68 at last count, didn’t make it. Twelve puppies are also still unaccounted for as of today.

If we are obligated to find the beauty in any situation however tragic, it can be found in the people and community of Jacksonville. Immediately the city came together to decide how to first care for the surviving animals and, as importantly, how to rebuild – both the shelter and its mission. The voices were unified – both public and private. That is rare. But it has been a sustaining force for not only the shelter and the people of Jacksonville but for others, like myself, who watch helplessly from afar.

The Shining Stars:

  • City officials are working with the Humane Society to determine if they should rebuild as a joint venture.
  • More than $50,000 has poured in from private contributions to date.
  • The community stepped in immediately to offer temporary and permanent homes to displaced animals. The shelter hopes to expedite the adoption process by the end of this week. They were able to utilize part of the structure, not destroyed by fire, to house the surviving animals.
  • As firefighters from Station 28 took one last walk through the charred remains, they found one remaining puppy still alive under the rubble. A bit battered but no worse for wear the little golden mix was promptly adopted by the firefighters. After a bit of medical attention “Lucky” will soon enjoy his new home and role as station mascot.


Cash donations can be made at any Wachovia Bank branch. The account number is 2000034081857.

Donations can also be mailed to the Jacksonville Humane Society Thrift Store, 8328 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32216. You can reach them at (904) 724-9200.

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