It was the sort of accident that sends chills throughout anyone who has ever run or volunteered at a pet rescue when they hear about it. In the early morning hours of Friday, December 31, an electrical fire broke out in the office of Last Hope Cat Kingdom near Atwater, CA. Smoke poured from a vent in the office into four of the six resident cat rooms. Even though the cats had access doors to the outside, many of them panicked and were not able to escape. Around 150 cats lived at the sanctuary and over 60, many of them seniors and longtime residents, perished.
This was the second devastating heartbreak for Last Hope’s owner, Renate Schmitz. Two and a half years ago, her daughter Ramona was murdered in front of her two children. Ramona’s boyfriend, who was the prime suspect, killed himself a few days later. Renate took in her two granddaughters and took up her daughter’s cause, which was Last Hope. Until her death, the sanctuary had been Ramona’s passion, and Renate kept it running in her honor.
As we all know, small sanctuaries such as Last Hope are not flush with money, and the fire caused at least $25,000 damage, not to mention the anguish of losing so many of its residents. But Renate is determined to rebuild and a temporary structure has gone up to house the surviving cats. Many people are coming through with funds and needed supplies, such as blankets, kitty litter, crates and food. Some who live near Merced County, where Atwater is located, are volunteering their services to get things running again at Last Hope. I am hoping that you will help too.