Community Rushes To Aid 100 Pets Trapped After SUV Crashes, Bursts Into Flames Inside Shelter

Tragedy struck a West Chester, PA animal shelter this weekend when an SUV crashed through one of the walls and then burst into flames.  The driver of the SUV died, along with three cats from the Brandywine Valley Society for the Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals (BVSPCA) New Castle facility.  A fourth cat remains at an emergency care center for burns and smoke inhalation.


Courtesy, BVSPCA

That night, first responders, staff and neighbors joined forces to get the animals out of the crumbling, burning facility.  Said BVSPCA spokeswoman Linda Torelli, “to have a woman lose her life on our property was really horrific for all of us.”

In a superhuman effort, almost 100 animals were moved out of harms way.  Adam Lamb, BVSPCA CEO said,

“it could have been even worse if not for the amazing work of the first responders and all the neighbors who worked together.”   

People came out of their houses and brought animals into their cars and homes.  First responders put them into ambulances.


Courtesy, BVSPCA

However, to add to the tragedy, the fire and crash destroyed the veterinary clinic, reception area, exam rooms and holding area.  The shelter sustained so much damage it was immediately deemed uninhabitable.  So what would happen to 98 now-displaced shelter animals?

The BVSPCA put out the word to rescues, fosters and adopters on social media and through local news reports.  And they have been overwhelmed at the response from the community.

Slim, adoptable at PA campus

The BVSPCA posted, “in one day, 56 of the animals at one adoption location found new homes and 15 left with rescue groups.”  A family who had been thinking about adopting immediately came in and saved a life.

Today, the BVSPCA held a vigil for Latoya Cooper, the 33-year-old mother of five who perished, as well as for the three cats whose lives were also lost. People left flowers at the now boarded over site of the accident. Speakers also recognized the first responders and neighbors,”whose fast action saved the other 98 pets.”

MIs Priss, adoptable at Georgetown campus

Supporters of BVSPCA were inspired and moved by the community support for the driver’s family and for the shelter animals.  The shelter has launched a fundraiser to help cover the immediate cost of rebuilding their facility.

Tanner, adoptable at New Castle campus

If you’re thinking of adopting and you’re in that area, please visit one of the BVSPCA‘s adoption locations: the Georgetown, DE campus; the PetSmart Everyday Adoption Center in Dover, DE or the West Chester, PA campus. Sunday hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  The pets you see here are all available at these centers.

If you’d like more stories about rescue heroes, catch this episode of, where firefighters and first responders train shelter dogs for search and rescue!




Lisa Blanck

Writing articles about animals for more than 22 years, she dove into the rescue world with the onset of Hurricane Katrina. As an outspoken advocate for animals, she's covered everything from paws to hooves, fins to feathers. She was the Orlando Animal Rescue and Worldwide Animal Issues Examiner for seven years. She's always thinking pawsitive, looking for ways to improve the lives of animals. She lives with one dog, one cat and one patient human. She welcomes your suggestions and is thrilled to be part of the family!