Nearly all of the dogs and cats at a “no-kill” animal shelter in central Massachusetts died over the weekend in a fire that swept through the facility.
Sweetpea Friends of Rutland Animals Inc. in Paxton, about 50 miles from Boston, caught fire late Sunday night, killing between 40 and 50 animals, according to news reports. Almost immediately, shelter workers sent out a plea for help on social media, asking volunteers to bring towels, blankets and leashes.
“Sweetpea is currently ON FIRE and we need volunteers to help MOVE animals,” workers wrote on Facebook. “This is not a drill. Please help!” Workers also begged for veterinarians to “go to sweetpea ASAP.”
The animals were set to have their pictures taken with Santa after Thanksgiving. Some of the dogs and cats had been at the shelter for years.
In the late-night hours Sunday, firefighters did not think they could rescue even one of the animals.
“That was our first goal — to do that,” Paxton Fire Chief Jay Conte told ABC affiliate WCVB. “We were just trying to get to the dogs if we could.”
Staffers told the Telegram & Gazette that there were about 50 cats and dogs in all at the shelter.
Before midnight, firefighters had managed to pull several animals from the flames, according to the newspaper. They were treated for smoke inhalation.
“Brooklyn Skye, Jade and Divinci are at vet in stable condition,” shelter workers wrote on Facebook. “Stella is in critical condition and rushed to tufts. Kitten the cat is stable.”
As firefighters battled the blaze, volunteers showed up with supplies, according to the Telegram & Gazette. Some gathered in a nearby building on the property, weeping and wrapping the rescued dogs in blankets to keep them warm.
A veterinarian arrived to help treat the animals that were pulled from the fire, according to the newspaper.
“The building can be replaced, but these animals can’t be,” kennel manager Melanie Kenadek told WBZ NewsRadio 1030. “They’re shelter pets, but they’re our family. All my volunteers feel the same way. It’s just, they’re our babies.”
After the fire, shelter workers posted a message on Facebook: “Tonight, sweetpea has lost almost everything.”
Monday morning, the shelter sent out a wish list, asking volunteers for kitten food and cookies, among other things.
On a GoFundMe page, the shelter pleaded for donations “in order to get back on our feet.” More than $26,000 had been pledged by early Monday afternoon.
The shelter describes itself as a nonprofit, no-kill animal welfare organization “dedicated to the rescue, care and placement of stray, abandoned and surrendered companion animals in central Massachusetts and beyond.”
The shelter could not be immediately reached for comment.
This story has been updated.