An attempt to halt the demolition of the remaining Champlain Tower South building in Surfside late Sunday night was denied after county officials said no animals had been found alive inside before the decision was made.
An emergency hearing was granted after the owners of units in the building filed a motion, with one saying she was willing to go inside and knew the risk associated with it in order to rescue her pet.
Ultimately, the motion was denied by Judge Michael Henzman and the building was demolished around 10:30 p.m. on Sunday.
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As crews prepared to demolish the still-standing portion, officials had reassured families Saturday that they had done their best to look for their missing cherished pets.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said that at least three sweeps for pets had been conducted — some by camera, at a portion of the complex still standing — and that no animals have been found.
“I very much understand that pets are part of people’s families,” the mayor said, noting that she, too, has been a pet owner. “My heart goes out to those who fear for their animals, and I just want you to know that additional efforts have been made and are being made.”
Cava said she informed a contractor of possible locations of missing pets. “They’re aware and doing everything that they might do just to make an additional search,” she said.
But the mayor said there would not be a door-to-door search because it was too dangerous to do so.
Earlier in the week, a firefighter attempted to locate the missing cat of an elderly woman and her daughter who lived on the fourth floor of the still-standing wing of the condominium tower. The two women had escaped with their dog, Rigatoni. But their cat, Coco, was apparently left behind in the scramble to escape.
Ken Russell, a commissioner for the city of Miami who is married to a veterinarian, alerted officials.
“Once I realized a cat was still in jeopardy, I called the fire chief,” he said, adding that he made sure no resources were taken away from the search and rescue mission for the scores of people buried under the rubble of the fallen building.
And so a firefighter hung by the edge of the bucket truck and started calling for Coco.
Russell said he's since heard of other possible pets that were left behind, including a dog in a crate on the ninth floor and two parrots and a cat on the 10th floor.
“People rely on them for their mental stability and their comfort," Russell said. "To know that they left their animal behind is a tremendous sense of guilt.”