Community Consoles, Donates Thousands after Devastating SPCA Crash

Volunteers work quickly on July 9 to rescue nearly 100 dogs and cats, placing them into individual emergency carriers

The outpouring of support since a fiery car crash destroyed a local animal shelter has been extraordinary, including 600 Delawareans who have donated nearly $40,000 to help rebuild the facility. 

“The support from the community has been amazing – from the neighbors the night of the fire who came out in their pajamas to bring animals to safety in their cars and houses, to all the adopters and donors who are coming together to help move us all forward,” said Linda Torelli, Brandywine Valley SPCA Director of Marketing & Programs.

The chaos began just after midnight on Sunday, with the sound of a large crash followed by sirens that filled the air in New Castle. Neighbors flooded the streets following the smoke and sirens leading them to the Brandywine Valley SPCA (BVSPCA), a no-kill animal shelter.

There they discovered the horrific scene: a car had lost control, crashing into the shelter that was now on fire. Tragically the driver, Latoya Cooper, a 36-year old mother of five, lost her life.

Destruction inside the Brandywine Valley SPCA

With the building ablaze, neighbors swiftly joined the efforts of first responders and BVSPCA staff, rescuing nearly 100 animals from the building. Volunteers worked quickly to remove dogs and cats from the facility, but not all animals at the shelter survived. Unfortunately the fire claimed the lives of three cats and sent another cat named Harmony to the emergency vet, where she remains in critical care for burns and smoke inhalation.

Some of the rescued canines and felines were carried into nearby homes or cars for temporarily evacuation. And ultimately, those animals were examined by medical personnel and given a clean bill of health.

The shelter’s Veterinary Clinic was destroyed in the crash, and the shelter sustained significant damage. The shelter will remain closed until further notice. All animals have been transferred to their other shelter locations in Dover, Georgetown, and West Chester, with most of the displaced animals going to their West Chester shelter for adoption.

Quick action by local firefighters and others helped save nearly 100 animals at the shelter

Adam Lamb, Executive Director recalls the phone call he received alerting him of the incident during the early hours Sunday morning. “This was the worst call I have ever gotten. I am so sad for the human and animal lives that were lost. But I am so proud of the staff, fire department, and police, who acted quickly to minimize the animals lives lost.”

BVSPCA hosted a vigil on Monday evening outside their New Castle shelter. A crowd gathered in memory of Latoya Cooper as well as the three cats who perished. The local community, firefighters, police, and volunteers whose fast action saved the other 98 animals were recognized.

In the past few days BVSPCA staff has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support they have received.  

The firefighter who helped rescue the dog on the right came to adopt her on Wednesday. “My wife and I knew she was meant to be in our family.”

“We couldn’t believe how many people were waiting for our West Chester shelter to open Sunday morning. We adopted 56 animals and transferred 15 to rescue partners on Sunday alone,” said Torelli. Local and national organizations, including Best Friends Animal Society, Delaware Humane Association, and Faithful Friends Animal Society to name a few, have stepped up to help.

BVSPCA has raised over $38,000 as of Tuesday evening from nearly 600 donors towards their $100,000 fundraising goal.

In addition to adopters, the greatest need is monetary donations to support the rebuilding efforts of the shelter, help offset lost revenue with its New Castle public Veterinary Clinic temporarily closed, and emergency care costs for one animal who is fighting for her life.

Harmony is fighting for her life at an emergency veterinary center

Harmony is a young, female adult cat who is fighting for her life from the burns and smoke inhalation at a nearby emergency veterinary center. Donations to Harmony can made online here.

Adoptable animals can be viewed on their website:

The public is encouraged to visit their adoption centers to adopt.
West Chester, PA: 1212 Phoenixville Pike, (484) 302-0865, 12-7pm Tue-Fri; 10am-5pm Sat & Sun; closed Monday
Georgetown, DE: 22918 Dupont Boulevard, (302) 856-6361, 12-7pm Tue-Fri, 10am-5pm Sat & Sun; closed Monday
Dover, DE: PetSmart Everyday Adoption Center (dogs & cats), 1390 N Dupont Hwy, (302) 736-5260, 11am-7pm Mon-Fri 

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About the Contributor

Brittany Anthony

Brittany Anthony

Brittany Anthony is the development manager at Cancer Support Community Delaware and a running coach at Ursuline Academy. She previously served for 5 years as the development / pr manager at Faithful Friends Animal Society and is in fact the proud owner of her own rescue dog, Jackson.

1 Comment

  • How selfish are we as a Community to devote all of this time and money to something other than the sympathy and financial aid to the orphaned 5 children left behind .
    We are way past center with the insane thought process of people who try to compare Animals to Children.

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