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The devastation from the collapsed building in Surfside near Miami Beach never seems to end. After searching through the rubble for over a week, over 100 people and many pets were still left unaccounted for. Many families feared their pets were still inside what remained of the building, causing a panic. So, they rallied for officials to let them inside to search for their furry friends.
Yet, officials claim they searched the building as much as possible. Instead of looking harder, they opted to demolish the tower, even though some animals would likely go down with it.
Last Minute Precautions
The half of the building that was still standing was set to be demolished on the Fourth of July before Tropical Storm Elsa arrived. Of course, no one wanted the building to come down onto living creatures, so they took some precautions beforehand.
Different sources have said different things, but it seems that officials did three sweeps of the building using drones. People were only able to search the first floor since anything above that would be too risky. They opened doors and set up traps to help any pets escape, but they found nothing during their searches. So, they proceeded to demolish the building as planned.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava stated that they would not send people into specific apartments. She reasoned that it would put too many people at risk.
“We took every action that we possibly could to search for any pets, any animals in the building prior to the demolition,” Levine Cava said. “In the days since the collapse, the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue team conducted multiple, full sweeps of the building in person, including searching in closets and under beds and other hiding places. In the areas of the building that were not accessible to the teams, they used ladders on high-lift cranes and they placed live animal traps on the balconies at great personal risk to our first responders.”
Animal Lovers Fight Back
Before the demolition, pet parents fought back. They started a petition that gained over 18,000 signatures. Attorney Paula Phillips also brought attention to the case by presenting it to a judge. She asked if he would allow an individual to enter the building at their own risk to retrieve pets from specific apartments. After some consideration, the judge denied her request.
“They had tried on their own to get back in the building, were told no, we didn’t want to get their hopes up but if it had succeeded it would’ve been a wonderful thing,” Phillips said. “When it fails, it rubs salt in an already very raw wound.”
At least several dogs, cats, parakeets, and a guinea pig were still in the building. Their families were willing to risk their lives to bring the pets to safety, but since the government was now involved, they couldn’t without approval. Officials continued to insist that no animals were in the building, despite the hesitancy of pet parents.
“I have emphasized to Fire and Rescue from the beginning the importance of leaving no stone unturned when it comes to finding these animals,” said Levine Cava. “But I do not substitute my own judgment for theirs about what is safe.”
The Decision Has Been Made
Ultimately, the Miami building was demolished on the Fourth of July. Residents were horrified as they watched the second half of their home be destroyed. This destruction occurred even though the tropical storm was no longer headed toward it. Now, every resident’s belongings are gone, but more importantly, some pets likely perished during the demolition.
“It’s all over again, it’s reliving what happened on the 24th,” said surviving resident Erick De Moura. “So many of the people, the survivors, if you talk to them, they gonna tell you a story out of a movie, these people had hopes they were going to be able to collect their belongings.”
Phillips said that those who watched the building go down with their pets potentially inside experienced trauma, exhaustion, and heartbreak. They don’t have the energy to deal with any more trauma in their lives right now.
Pets are a part of the family, so many believe that more should’ve been done to save them. Belongings and buildings can be replaced, but any animals trapped inside are gone forever.