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PAWS Tinley Park still a month away from reopening after fire


Three weeks later Fire forces evacuation of PAWS Tinley Park South suburban animal shelter officials said it will take about another month for all animals housed at the facility to return to the renovated shelters of displaced pets, but pet adoption is still possible thanks to some help from the community.

PAWS Tinley Park president Terri Buckley said the fire, which started in the facility’s laundry room, damaged walls and ceilings in the building, with most of the damage caused by smoke.

“Every room, floor and ceiling, needs to be washed and then painted. Buckley said that due to smoke damage, every drop ceiling tile had to be removed and replaced and our entire ventilation system had to be cleaned. “Then the electricity needs to be checked. “We have to make sure it’s safe and nothing’s burning in there.”

In addition to cleaning up and repairing damage, PAWS used the temporary closure as an opportunity to replace old floor tiles in the building, Buckley said.

“It’s not the best thing for a shelter, and it’s very worn out,” he said. “So when the animals and workers are outside the building, we install epoxy flooring inside. This is similar to a garage where an extra layer of epoxy is applied on top to protect it from nails and urine. It’s very easy to clean.”

Insurance won’t pay for new flooring, but the shelter will foot the bill for the overdue update, Buckley said. He said it’s difficult to estimate the total cost of renovations and repairs because they’re still “working with the insurance company,” but he believes most of the salvage work will be covered.

Meanwhile, all of the animals were placed in foster homes, and many required medical treatment after the fire.

“Midwest Animal Hospital has been amazing with us and our animals,” Buckley said.

According to Buckley, the Orland Park business not only provides medical care for animals, but also hosts “meet and greet” sessions where potential adopters can spend time with a pet once their application is approved.

Linda Baio, a PAWS volunteer who maintains the shelter’s adoption database on PetFinder, expressed her gratitude for the assistance from Midwest Animal Hospital.

“I think the important thing is that no one or any animal is harmed. It made it a lot easier to accept what happened,” Baio said. “There were a few animals that took a little longer to recover but they are all better now. Midwest Animal Hospital was amazing. They sent emergency doctors and staff to transport the animals to the hospital. “They spent hours shampooing and bathing the animals.”

Baio said eight of the 100 animals taken in since the fire have been adopted and he hopes people will adopt more.

“You just need to visit our website, browse the cats and dogs available, and then fill out the online application. “That’s how it should start,” Baio said.

Baio said that because the volunteers have been displaced along with the animals, they are all working from home, which means some jobs now take longer. He asked potential adopters to be patient during this process.

According to Buckley, most of the animals went home with shelter volunteers like Baio.

“Many of the people who volunteer already have animals and have just added guardians to their homes. But it’s not like you’re babysitting for a weekend; “You’re looking at a month or two,” Buckley said. “We have one volunteer who takes in six cats. Another is fostering three seven-month-old Collie mix kittens.

Both Baio and Buckley said the care and support from the community and beyond has been crucial in getting PAWS Tinley Park through this challenging time.

“We received donations from about 30 states,” Buckley said. “Miranda Lambert’s MuttNation Foundation sent us $20,000. Someone stepped forward to pay medical bills to Midwest (Animal Hospital). The sense of community, the love, and the concern that came from the community was overwhelming. This is really awesome. We will be fine. In fact, we will be able to have a much better opening than before.”

Once the renovations are completed and the animals and staff return to the facility, there will be a grand reopening and everyone is welcome to come celebrate, Buckley said.

Angela Denk is a freelance reporter for The Daily Southtown.


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