Thousands raised days after 11 cats die in Auckland fire

A Givealittle page has raised $20,000 in two days after a fire gutted an east Auckland cat rescue, killing 11 animals and injuring many more.

Storm and Daisy are two of the surviving cats. Source: Jane Nixon

A neighbour alerted Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) at about 10.00am on Wednesday morning after she noticed smoke coming out of the Golflands house.

Owner of the property, Jewels Annabell, told 1 NEWS she had just started a new temp role as an executive assistant at AUT in the city and was not able to get back home until an hour after FENZ was called.

She says a “whole network of neighbours” tried to contact her but it took her some time to make her way home. It was about 11.00am at that point and the fire had been extinguished, leaving 11 cats at the rescue dead.

Ariel and Jasmine are sisters and both survived the fire. Source: Jane Nixon

“I was in a taxi because I took the ferry into work and I just ran in and I could see some of the cats were okay but some weren’t.”

The SPCA, who had been contacted by FENZ, then helped transport 16 of the remaining cats to a nearby vet to be assessed.

Nine cats remain in veterinary care under observation, some in oxygen tents, and the remaining seven are with a neighbour who has taken Annabell in.

“It’s going to take four to six months to restore and rebuild the inside of the house,” she says.

Structurally she believes there is no damage to the house she had built and has lived in for 27 years, but internally there is “a lot of smoke damage,” she says.

“Windows will need repairing and parts of the house will need re-jibbing.”

“The most damage from the fire is in the kitchen,” she says, after FENZ pulled the ceiling down to check for hotspots.

“I’m not even sure what I’ve lost at this point,” she says but “the place is black”.

She says FENZ isn’t investigating the fire, which Annabell was told was due to an electrical fault over a multi-plug powerboard.

A FENZ spokesperson told 1 NEWS they were called to a house fire in Golflands at 10.40 am on Wednesday 28 July where two trucks from Howick and Mt Wellington responded.

“On arrival crews found smoke to floor level throughout the house and a fire in the kitchen. While some of the crew attended the fire, others went through the house and rescued as many cats as they could,” the spokesperson said.

FENZ confirmed a fire investigator did attend the incident and an investigation was completed but due to the level of damage in the kitchen area where the fire occurred, the exact cause is not clear.

“However it is possible the fire started in some electrical equipment that was on the kitchen bench.”

Stephanie Redhill of Auckland’s Community Cat Coalition – an organisation that supports independent cat rescues, set up a Givealittle page the same day as the fire - it’s now raised $20,000 to help cover the vet bills that are mounting up for Annabell.

"Jewels is an extremely dedicated animal rescuer who works tirelessly to save homeless felines and rehabilitates them until they can be adopted into loving homes. She is a pillar of the Auckland animal rescue community, often dropping everything so she can go save a cat on the other side of the city. Her commitment to animal welfare is unwavering - spending all of her free time on caring for animals that are otherwise overlooked, homeless, and neglected," the Givealittle page says.

Annabell says at present she’s spent $5000 of her own money on vet bills but faces at least another $5000.

The Golflands property has major internal damage after the fire. Source: Jane Nixon

She says the Givealittle page can only be used “cat-related things”.

“Cremation costs for the 11 cats that died are priced at several hundred dollars each,” Annabell says.

The next step for her is finding somewhere to live while the repairs on the house get underway.

“While I love how many people have offered to foster the cats, my overriding desire is to find a place to stay that can take all of us so I can be with my fur babies.”

Annabell says insurance will cover her accommodation costs while her own house is assessed and repaired.

She says she’s put her plight on her Facebook page as well as several other social media pages.

“There’s somebody out there that will be able to help me I just have to find them.”

The kitchen at the property was severely damaged. Source: Jane Nixon

Annabell says she’s hoping someone will offer accommodation to her and the remaining animals for several months.

“It would allow me to focus on settling the animals, who were comfortable and happy as well as focus on my new job.”

“I need stability for me and them, then I can look at what my next steps are.”