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Crews Begin Demolishing Cat Colony Building With Animals Possibly Still Inside

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jan 26, 2017 1:01AM

The wellbeing of several cats from a cat colony is in doubt after demolition proceeded on an abandoned Bridgeport row house, possibly without fair warning to the cats’ neighboring caretaker.

On Wednesday morning, Autumn Ganza awoke to the news that crews from Delta Demolition were tearing down the building, at 2837 S. Hillock, that housed “generations” of abandoned cats, left at the South Side property near where she lives. Castle Blackpaw, as it was affectionately known, had some two dozen abandoned felines that Ganza took upon herself to feed, create DIY shelters for and trap and release to help with the city’s rat problems.

Ald. Patrick Thompson’s office notified Ganza’s representative on Friday that the building would be demolished sometime this week; and Ganza was able to scramble to save many of the cats inside, she said. But she estimates six to eight cats are still inside the property, and were inside when demolition—now roughly half-completed—began on Wednesday.

Also, she says a promised several-day cleanup, set to precede the knockdown, never materialized, and a demolition notice was never posted—which left her with no way of knowing the teardown would start on Wednesday. Thompson told Chicagoist that he was clear about the timeline and said cleanup crews arrived as planned, as far as he was aware.

When she saw what was happening on Wednesday, Ganza “got (demolition crews) to stop for 20 minutes, confirmed there were cats inside,” she said. “I set some traps inside. But then they just continued.”

“It was the worst day of my life,” Ganza said.

Thompson directed crews to suspend demolition on Wednesday on parts of the property where cats might be located, he said.

Crews are slated to knock down the remainder of the property, in which the cats have hopefully been trapped, secured and removed, on Thursday morning. But Ganza worries the commotion only made the cats “burrow further into the hoard,” making themselves susceptible, rather than taking to the traps. The plan for tomorrow: open the building and give un-trapped cats a chance to run out. Tree House Humane Society will be on hand to capture any cats that are still in the building.

"I'll open all the windows and all the doors to give them every opportunity to scatter," Paul Nickerson, of Tree House, told DNAInfo, "so they're not trapped in the basement."

Ald. Thompson told Chicagoist that if Tree House is unable to locate cats on Thursday morning, further demolition could potentially be postponed, depending on the animal rescue workers' advice. "They're the experts," he said.

The property owner and demolition company were not immediately available for comment.

This post has been updated.