Officials believe 20 to 30 cats killed in fire at pet shelter

Fire rescue crews battled heavy flames at the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando. Multiple animals died, and crews were still in the process of accounting for each animal on Sept. 16.

ORLANDO, Florida (WESH) -- Fire rescue crews battled heavy flames at the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando on Conroy Road in Orange County overnight. Multiple animals died, and crews were still in the process of accounting for each animal on Thursday afternoon.

The fire broke out around 10:27 p.m. Wednesday.

Officials with the Orange County Fire Rescue said when they arrived, the structure was 20% involved with flames through the roof of the building.

The Pet Alliance works to find homes for around 10,000 pets a year.

Officials with the Pet Alliance said 26 dogs were saved during the fire and 12 cats were found dead; 10 cats are believed to be missing, WESH 2 News has learned. Officials said that at least 10 cats were pulled from the building Wednesday night. A total of 20 cats were found alive, officials said Thursday afternoon.

According to officials, it appears the fire started at the front of the clinic, nearby where the cats are kept.

"If you run a shelter, this is literally your worst nightmare," Stephen Bardy, the executive director of Pet Alliance said. "To see your building in fire and know that there are animals in there that you're charged to care for and you can't go in -- I'm grateful that the firefighters put their lives at risk to help save as many as they could."

Dogs and cats will be relocated to the Pet Alliance's Sanford location.

Bardy added that many of the animals with Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, around 50%, are currently with foster families.

He said the building is a total loss.

Bardy said it was workers at the Orange County Animal Shelter, which sits just across the parking lot, who spotted the fire and began rescuing animals, along with firefighters. He said when he showed up on the scene, he was initially in shock.

"It's devastating, I was gutted, and then I started thinking, okay, how do I temporarily house these animals, you immediately go into next steps."

Bardy says all of the Pet Alliance's animals that were at the shelter and survived have been moved to the Pet Alliance of Sanford, which does have room to house and care for them.

As far as the building goes, he says it's unlikely they will rebuild because they had already been in the process of making plans to build a new Pet Alliance Orlando shelter on some land they bought on John Young Parkway. They had hoped to break ground next year.

Bardy said there's no need for anyone to come to the location on Thursday, but financial donations to the Pet Alliance can be made online and they could also use donations of wet cat food to the Pet Alliance shelter in Sanford, and of course, adoptions are always welcome.

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