Days after a shelter for stray cats on Penns Landing was burned in what animals lovers believe was an act of deliberate arson, a dazed survivor of the blaze was found staggering about near the wreckage.
"Volunteers just found one of the cats with fractured limbs and burns," cat lover and activist Alexa Ahrem posted on Facebook on Monday afternoon. "Cat is currently being transported to SPCA for medical care. … We think he may have escaped the fire and was just found."
Ahrem is a member of the Stray Cat Relief Fund, which set up the shelter for stray cats that live in the Pennsport section of South Philly that includes part of Penn's Landing. She first posted images of the destruction after it was discovered on Saturday and asserted that a cat-hating pyromaniac was responsible.
"This was the THIRD arson to the cat shelters at the pier in the past two weeks," Ahrem wrote. "Now all of the shelters that took an entire season, thousands of dollars and hundreds of man-hours to create and upkeep are completely destroyed. … This was planned. This was methodical. This is sickening."
Ahrem is a board member of Stray Cat Relief Fund, which built the shelters and was about to organize efforts "to winterize the cat shelters at the piers," she said. Instead, they're collecting wreckage, looking for clues and trying to treat survivors.
Law enforcement was notified of the incident, and animal cruelty law enforcement officers are also investigating.
"The Pennsylvania SPCA’s Humane Law Enforcement Team, in coordination with the Philadelphia police and fire departments, is investigating the fire at Pier 70 affecting the feral cat colony there," a PSPCA spokeswoman said via email. "We are still very early in the investigation and hope to have more information to share soon as to what happened and who may be responsible."
But no clues about who might be responsible have yet been made public.
Ahrem has created a Gofundme to help finance rebuilding and winterizing shelters for the cats. According to her, the colonies for stray cats "house hundreds of cats [and] have been active at the piers for over 30 years." Stray Cat Relief got involved four years ago to play a role in their upkeep.
But now, she says, the cats are under attack in ways beyond just the arson.
"Not only arson, but reports of people at the piers slitting cats' throats and dumping them in the river, and hanging them and throwing them in the river," she wrote.
Stray Cat Relief is holding a coming fundraiser which Ahrem hopes will help pay for increased security by the cat colonies, including fences, barbed wire, surveillance cameras, supplies and a reward for the capture of the arsonist.
Beth Grossman, the former prosecutor and Republican candidate for DA of Philly, stressed that the attack on the feline domicile was a crime and should be prosecuted as one.
"This is absolutely awful on so many levels," Grossman said. "These cat shelters are run by committed volunteers who truly care about the welfare of these cats. As a devoted cat owner and animal lover, if elected, I will not tolerate animal cruelty."
Visit straycatreliefund.org online for more information about the shelters and their upcoming fundraiser.