Several animals perish in fire at Knox-Whitley animal shelter

Several animals perish in fire at Knox-Whitley animal shelter

Photo from LeeAnn Cain, Times-Tribune, Photo from LeeAnn Cain, Times-Tribune,
Photo from LeeAnn Cain, Times-Tribune, Photo from LeeAnn Cain, Times-Tribune,

6 News Reporter

WOODBINE, Ky (WATE) - At least a dozen cats and one dog were killed Friday night when a Whitley County animal shelter caught fire.

The Whitley County Sheriff's Office says they responded to reports of a fire at the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter around 9:45 p.m.

Volunteers and employees of the shelter spent the morning searching for some of the animals that escaped.

"I cried and I cried and then I said we got to help so that's when I jumped in my car to see what we could do," said Melinda Barnhart, a former volunteer of the shelter.

Barnhart and her daughter printed out pictures of all the animals at the shelter to help figure out which animals were missing.

"We've been able to pretty much figure out where they all are, we know which foster parents have them, which ones are at the vet and we know there are still two missing," she said.

Volunteers located five of the dogs that escaped Saturday morning.

Whitley County Sheriff Department detective John Hill was first on the scene Friday night. It came in as an alarm call for a break-in.

"When I got there, there was smoke coming out of the roof and I immediately called the fire department," said Det. Hill.

Woodbine Volunteer Fire Department arrived on the scene and firefighters, along with Hill, worked to free many of the animals before the roof began to collapse. 

"There are cages with dog doors along the outside so we went around the building and started kicking those in. We finally got a door open and some of the firemen and myself went inside to get the cats out and let the rest of the dogs out," Hill said. "Stuff was falling down around me and it got really hot, we had to get out."

Because many of the cats were housed in the center of the shelter, many were killed.

"By the time we got there, the fire was fully engulfed and the roof had caved in," said Kenneth Jones, a volunteer firefighter with Oak Grove Volunteer Fire Department.

Fire officials were on the scene until around 8:30 Saturday morning putting out hotspots. Fire fighters from Woodbine Volunteer Fire Department, Oak Grove Volunteer Fire Department, West Knox Fire Department and several others all helped with the fire.

"Once the fire was out and we could gain access we went back inside to recover some of the animals," Jones said.

Shelter officials say there were 37 cats inside and according to their web site there were at least 15 dogs. They say one dog was killed as well as at least a dozen cats.

The shelter is a complete loss. Shelter employees say they will rebuild, but for now they need help caring for the displaced animals.

The animals are spread out among foster homes and many are at a local vet clinic. Because of the changing situation, the shelter says they are in need of funds, not items such as blankets and cages. A fund has been set up at the Forcht Bank for donations.

"Because they don't know what's going to happen next, monetary is the best thing right now," said Barnhart.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. The Kentucky State Police Arson investigator has been called in. 

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