Animals displaced by fire find shelter at Dover PetSmart


Megan Graven (left) and Kristina Keeley, pet adoption specialists at PetSmart in Dover, hold Julio, a dog that was displaced by a Sunday fire at the Brandywine Valley SPCA. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

DOVER — A fiery car crash at the Brandywine Valley SPCA claimed the life of a 33-year-old New Castle woman early Sunday morning and sent animal shelters scurrying to help out.

Megan Graven and Kristina Keeley, pet adoption specialists at the PetSmart Everyday Adoption Center in north Dover, were busy on Monday making space for several of the nearly 100 displaced animals.

They received three dogs on Monday afternoon and are preparing for even more today and throughout the week.

“It’s really, really good that we’re able to help out, but it’s really bad with what happened to their shelter in New Castle,” Ms. Graven said. “We had so many adoptions (Sunday) which cleared out so much space just to bring down animals from New Castle. We’ll be getting even more (today).”

Officials said Latoya Cooper, a mother of five, lost control of her vehicle at around 12:15 a.m. Sunday in the 800 block of South Street in New Castle and she crashed into the SPCA, which killed her and ignited a fire.

Linda Torelli, the SPCA’s director of marketing and programs, said fast-acting first responders, BVSPCA staff and neighbors worked together to rescue nearly 100 animals from the scene.

Ms. Torelli said three cats died in the fire while the other animals were relocated to temporary housing and are being examined by medical personnel.

A total of 98 animals were moved to other locations, including 36 cats and 62 dogs.

“We’re heartbroken to have lost these lives (Sunday),” said Adam Lamb, BVSPCA Chief Executive Officer. “It could have been even worse if not for the amazing work of the first responders and all the neighbors who worked together to get the animals out safely.”

Ms. Keeley noted that the tragedy could have been even worse.

The car crash caused significant damage to the veterinary clinic portion of the building. The shelter portion of the building sustained water and smoke damage.

The New Castle facility will be closed for an undetermined period of time, pending a building inspection and possible subsequent cleanup and repairs.

“It’s very rewarding that we are able to help out,” Ms. Keeley said. “But it was a very tragic situation. We’re just trying to get everybody in safe places now. It could have been a lot worse.”

The displaced animals were taken to other BVSPCA adoption locations, including a campus in Georgetown and one in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Dover’s PetSmart is waiting on more animals over the coming days.

“We’re just waiting on some animals to get neutered because they were on the waiting list while they were up in New Castle,” said Ms. Graven.

“What they’re doing right now is trying to get all of the dogs relocated first and then they’re going to focus on the kitties.”

The Brandywine Valley SPCA website said the organization is already beginning the recovery process.

The BVSPCA is trying to raise $100,000 over the next 59 days through a Fundly account. It had already raised $32,446 as of Monday at 4 p.m.

“You can help us recover from this tragedy by making a donation to our animals, they have been through a lot during their time on this earth. We need to make this a distant memory and replace it with a loving home and unparalleled support,” according to the website.

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