Stray Cat Shelters in South Philadelphia Targeted by Arson


Marking the third time in two weeks, outdoor shelters provided for stray cats along the Delaware River on Pier 70 were the target of arson, according to a rescue group.

The Stray Cat Relief Fund was seeking donations totaling $5,000 to replace the cat homes that were completely destroyed on Saturday. The group began a GoFundMe campaign, and by Sunday afternoon they have raised over $7,600 and increased their goal to $12,000.

An official from Pennsylvania SPCA, Gillian Kocher, said the SPCA and Philadelphia Police teamed up and are conducting an investigation. According to Kocher, part of this is reviewing surveillance footage from local businesses.

Though no cats were killed by Saturday’s fire, she said they have plans to return to the scene to search for injured cats.

A member of The Stray Cat Relief Fund’s Board, Alexa Ahrem, said three small kittens are currently in foster care following the first fire on October 15th.

Karen O’Rourke’s organization feeds nearly 200 cats per day on the piers. She said Pier 70 was home to three cat shelter areas that were manufactured from plastic soap barrels. Her organization cut openings, installed insulation, painted them and secured them to pallets. Before the fires, there were nearly 30 shelters that housed around 100 cats.

O’Rourke’s organization also operates shelters on Piers 64, 68, and 80. Fortunately, none of those shelters have been destroyed. The organization works to spay and neuter feral cats, and then they either find homes for friendlier ones or return them to the piers. The piers are owned by the Delaware River Waterfront Corp., and according to O’Rourke, is a dumping ground for unwanted felines.

Colonies of stray cats have been present in the area for the last 30 years, but the Stray Cat Relief Fund only began housing and feeding the animals about four years ago. According to the group’s GoFundMe page, the cat situation on the piers is unsustainable and the cats are in danger. They added that while the cats need shelter and food, the volunteers who try to help constantly fight battles against crime and a general lack of cooperation.

GoFundMe donations will be used to add security and replace the housing structures. Officials said if there is extra money they will consider offering a reward to find the individual(s) responsible for the fires.

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