An elderly widower named Larry owned two houses and an adjoining garage in Maspeth. After losing his wife, Larry was lonely, so he started taking in cats that had been dumped around the neighborhood and ended up with too many. He considered them to be dear friends and although there were a large number of them, he managed to take very good care of them.

On March 20, the house he lived in suffered a fire. Thankfully, no one was hurt. The City boarded up the house with the cats inside and issued a vacate order which forced Larry to settle into a hotel. He felt very alone and was heartbroken without the companionship of his furry family. The following day, Larry wrote a note to his neighbor asking her to take care of his cats and then tragically took his own life in his hotel room.

The neighbor honored his wishes and took responsibility for feeding the cats, but this was not in the long-term best interests of the cats or safe for her as the house had a full vacate order. Phil Navarra wrote to Christina Wilkinson via Facebook on March 22, “I am a public adjuster handling a fire claim in Maspeth for a client. He has passed on and left 35 cats behind. I called the ASPCA and ACC and they are full. Do you know anyone else I can call to rescue these cats?”

ACC can never use the “too full” excuse as they are charged with handling animal emergencies. Christina promptly contacted the people in her cat rescue circle. These included Nancy Sliwa, Phyllis Taiano and Joan Deraval. They all reached out to Philip and got the ACC to start trapping the cats the next day. Reporter Lisa Colangelo contacted the ACC as well. Council Member Holden’s office was also notified, and they worked on their end to help.

Feline Rescue of Staten Island, Whiskers a GoGo, Bobby and the Strays, Anjellicle Cat Rescue, Brooklyn Animal Action, HEART Rescue Group, and Magnificat Cat Rescue were some of the groups that directly took in the homeless cats and by May 5, Bobbi and the Strays had taken the last 3 cats at the ACC that needed placement. Now that’s teamwork! We urge the community to donate to these organizations as they are there when our pets need them.

The questions that remain are: Who issued the order to board up a home with living beings inside as it is illegal to deny animals food and water? Why didn’t the City remove the cats after the fire? Why did ACC claim they couldn’t help initially? It seems that a thorough investigation needs to be conducted in order to prevent something like this from ever happening again in the future.