Montreal

Sherbrooke Pet Connection fire draws support from Eastern Townshippers

The community of Lennoxville is rallying around the owner of Pet Connection, a no-kill shelter that was heavily damaged by a Tuesday night fire.

Majority of 27 cats at no-kill shelter survive fire that melted cages and scorched walls

Jen Young, owner of Pet Connections, is reunited with one of her cats after it underwent treatment for smoke inhalation. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

The community of Lennoxville is rallying around the owner of Pet Connection, a no-kill shelter that was heavily damaged by a Tuesday night fire.

The fire started in a room that housed 27 cats, a couple of puppies and some birds. The shelter's owner, Jen Young, believed it was caused by an air ventilation system on the floor.

But it wasn't until the fire had spread up the wall and into the ceiling, effectively eviscerating the room full of animals, that firefighters were called.

Miraculously, firefighters rescued most of the animals. The birds did not survive, but only two cats died in the fire. A third is still missing. Many of the cats suffered injuries caused by smoke inhalation.

"I didn't know who was who because they were all just pitch black. They were all vomiting badly and some of them had already passed out," she said.

They were all just pitch black.- Pet Connection owner Jen Young describes seeing the cats after the fire

It's now a day after the fire, but Young says she hasn't slept. She hasn't checked her Facebook, and members of her family are answering many of her phone calls.

"It was just horrible," she said. "When I have nightmares, that's what I think of."

Her main preoccupation is finding the last missing cat, Wilma. She worries Wilma might be hiding in the walls. She won't entertain the idea of gutting the charred room — likely the next step before rebuilding — until the cat is found.

Outpouring of support

On Wednesday morning, friends of Young visited the shelter with supplies and words of support. The fire struck a chord with many in the Lennoxville community — possibly in part due to Young's vivacious, caring personality.

Within hours of the fire, groups started fundraising for Young.

Jane Loiselle is the president of the Townshippers' Research and Cultural Foundation. The organization is collecting donations for Pet Connections.

"She's well-known in the Townships," said Loiselle, who adopted her dog Brando from the shelter.

"I don't know how she does what she does. We're delighted to be of any assistance we can be to Jen."

Young is thankful for the support, but says her immediate priority is making sure the animals will recover.

"Right now I can only focus on making sure that all my guys are okay. It's all I care about. I don't care about the store. I only bought the store to be able to afford to feed all these guys and give them a safe place to live. And I don't feel like I provided that right now," she said.

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