UPDATE: Investigation into largest animal hoarding fire in area - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Investigation into largest animal hoarding fire in area

CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - We have an update on what McKamey Animal Center has called the worst animal hoarding fire this area has ever had.

Dozens of cats died when an East Brainerd home burned Saturday.

Chattanooga firefighters say piles of clutter made getting to the fire a challenge in a house filled with at least 50 cats. They also say fecal matter covered the home. Now McKamey Animal Center is investigating to determine if animal abuse and neglect charges will be filed.

A family of four rent the Elaine Trail home in East Brainerd. The husband, wife and two sons escaped the fire unharmed, but dozens of their cats didn't.

"The majority of the cats died in the fire. We now have 17 survivors," McKamey Animal Center Director Karen Walsh said.

Those surviving cats are now quarantined at McKamey Animal Center undergoing treatment. Many are singed, shaking, and in shock after firefighters pulled them out from piles of clutter inside the burning home.

"Suffered from heat and from soot and some of them from the water. Some of them got singed. A few were burned, but they were also breathing in that smoke as well," Walsh said.

The Chattanooga Fire Department ruled the fire accidental, possibly electrical, but animal control is doing it's own investigation for animal abuse and neglect.

"Sometimes these cases aren't prosecutable. They're more of someone who needs help," Walsh said.

In Chattanooga, you're required special permits if you have more than seven cats. This family did not have those permits. Walsh says it's impossible to take care of 50 cats and that the fecal matter throughout the home likely played a role in the fire spreading so quickly.

"When there's a fire in an atmosphere like that, there's so much that's flammable and ammonia levels make the fire even worse," Walsh said.

Channel 3 spoke to the man of the house off-camera. He was too upset to talk about it. McKamey says he's cooperating fully with their investigation. They say most hoarding cases are reported by neighbors, but they never received any complaints on that home.

They also say taking on that many injured cats at once is draining their resources, so they're requesting donations. The surviving cats won't be up for adoption for at least a couple weeks while they undergo medical treatment.

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