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Ice Cream Cats rescued from a house fire await new homes, but 5 were euthanized at the Chicago animal shelter

The 1801 Dempster Street shop window that temporarily houses 29 cats. (Photo by Sam Stroozas)

The Evanston Animal Shelter is hoping someone will pick up Black Walnut, Nutty Coconut, and Cotton Candy. And the three “Ice Cream Cats” have plenty of company: Dozens were saved in a house fire in August.

Volunteers Kristi Bachmann and Feline Director Nancy Maize had to wear protective suits, sometimes standing up to their ankles in the water, when they took one cat after the other out of the house 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,” said Bachmann, “but in the end there were over 40.”

In the end, 42 cats were rescued from the house on Dewey Avenue, so many animals that, according to Bachmann, had not been named and had never seen the light of day – the windows of the house were covered with cardboard and the belongings of the woman who lived there.

The abundance of nameless animals became the Baskin-Robbins 31 (ish) taste cats, with a taste name for each cat, Bachmann explained. Few of the Ice Cream Cats have found a home yet.

There are currently 29 cats living in a rented shop front on Dempster Street, where they are recovering from the trauma they have suffered and are prepared to be welcomed into a new, loving home.

The ice cream cats. (Photo by Sam Stroozas)

“It was a miracle that they are here together, they found a lot of comfort in each other,” says Bachmann, who looks after the cats together with Maize. “You have come a very long way.”

The cats were initially frightened, said Bachmann, because of their previous life situation. The former resident of the house, a 73-year-old woman, was charged with animal harm, according to police.

Five cats euthanized without notice at Evanston Animal Shelter

In August, when the Evanston Animal Shelter failed to accommodate the mass influx of cats, five cats were sent to the Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago and two to PAWS Chicago.

The animals sent to PAWS and the Anti-Cruelty Society faced completely different fates.

The two cats sent to PAWS Chicago each had kittens, one of which died in childbirth. Kimmie, one of the adult cats, has been adopted while Marlena, the other adult cat, is now being put up for adoption at Lincoln Park Center by PAWS, ideally in a home with another cat. Two of Marlena’s five kittens were adopted; the other three are preparing to be transferred to adoption facilities soon.

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

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

Pasenko said the Anti-Cruelty Society responded to an August 16 email requesting accommodation in the Chicagoland area to house some of the rescued cats; it said it could be five.

These five cats were transferred to the Anti-Cruelty Society on August 18 and examined by a veterinarian that afternoon, Pasenko later reveals from their death records. A cat bit a veterinarian, which according to Bachmann was common.

Almost two hours after joining the Anti-Cruelty Society, the cats were due to be euthanized, and on August 19, all five cats were killed just over 24 hours after they arrived.

On Sept. 7, Pasenko contacted the Anti-Cruelty Society for an update after they had been asked about all cats’ medical records as part of the police investigation into the fire. She said she received a vague email stating 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 that she did not look at the attachments right away.

“I have no words why that could be”

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

It wasn’t until that evening, when she opened the PDFs to look at the medical records, that Pasenko saw that the cats had been euthanized.

“I cannot say why they were put to sleep,” said Pasenko. “They were difficult to work with at first because of what they had been through. We have seen the same with those we have had. I can’t speak for the Anti-Cruelty Society as to why they decided to euthanize the cats they received, but I believe they stuck to their standard protocol. “

Neither Tracy Elliott, CEO of the Anti-Cruelty Society, nor the organization’s media and communications department responded to requests for an interview with the RoundTable. There is a FAQ section on euthanasia on the group’s website that reads:

“The Anti-Cruelty Society remains an animal shelter with open access and we accept all animals that we are legally allowed to keep. We are committed to eliminating the euthanasia of adoptable pets and recognize that not all animals are rehabilitative or adoptable due to their health or serious behavioral problems. In some cases euthanasia can be the most humane decision to prevent further animal suffering. The Anti-Cruelty Society strongly supports and uses only the most humane euthanasia methods available. “

“We understand the sadness, anger and confusion”

Pasenko said she was never told the reason for the euthanasia of the five cats. She said she received the same general response as other members of the Evanston Animal Shelter when looking for explanations.

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

“We understand the sadness, anger and confusion this case caused. We take our commitment to compassionate care very seriously, so we’ve communicated with the Evanston Animal Shelter team and are conducting an internal review. It is heartbreaking for each of us when such a decision is made. “

Pasenko said that she or her team were not given any details of an internal review.

Ice Cream Cats are looking for a sweet home

Although the Evanston Animal Shelter has no answers about the five euthanized cats, most of the animals rescued from the fire are fine.

Each of the Ice Cream Cats at 1801 Dempster Street is waiting for a future home – they all have their vaccines and are microchipped. Maize said they will most likely need dental care in the future and the shelter wants them to be adopted in pairs whenever possible as they are bonded.

“No matter how old these cats are, their life is only just beginning,” said Bachmann. “They really are survivors.”

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