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Pet owners who futilely sought to retrieve their animals from a partially collapsed Florida tower before it was demolished Sunday are suffering unimaginable heartache, their lawyer says.
“Sheer trauma. Exhaustion. Heartbreak,” lawyer Paula Phillips told WTVJ-TV on Monday when asked about how the animal-lovers were holding up.
“They don’t have the mental, physical or emotional energy to deal with any more trauma,” she said.
“They had tried on their own to get back into the building. They were told no.”
Phillips had filed an emergency request Sunday night to halt the demolition, which officials said was required to continue rescue efforts at the site in Surfside where 27 people are confirmed dead and another 121 are still missing.
But a judge denied the late-night request.
“We didn’t want to get their hopes up with this last-ditch effort,” Phillips told the station of the pet owners.
“But if [the legal challenge] had succeeded, and if we had been able to go back in and we had been able to retrieve some of the animals, that would’ve been a wonderful thing.
“When it fails, that just rubs salt in an already very raw wound,” she said.
In an e-mail to The Post on Monday, Phillips said pet owners also have little legal recourse now that the building has been razed.
“Because the building has been demolished, any appeal of that decision would be moot,” she wrote. “I will certainly be looking into this further to determine whether federal law should require authorities to let people back into evacuated areas for the purpose of rescuing pets.
“At this point, the focus is on how to centralize information about animals brought out of disaster areas,” Phillips added.
She said the last-minute request to halt the demolition was to gain access to the building, not for damages involving the pets. So, a follow-up complaint for pain and suffering is not in the works as of now.
The Champlain Towers South building collapsed shortly before 1:30 a.m. on June 24, burying nearly 150 people under tons of rubble.
Many tenants were able to escape, including pet owners who fled but may have left their animals behind in their haste to reach safety.
Officials deemed the structure too unstable to allow anyone but first-responders into the rubble.
At a briefing Monday, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said rescue workers searched the building for any abandoned pets numerous times before the demolition.
“I also want to stress once again that we took every action that we possibly could to search for any pets, any animals in the building prior to the demolition,” Cava said.
“In the days since the collapse, the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue team conducted multiple, full sweeps of the building in person, including searching in closets and under beds and other hiding places,” the mayor said.
“In the areas of the building that were not accessible to the teams, they used ladders on high-lift cranes and they placed live animal traps on the balconies at great personal risk to our first responders,” she said.
Cava said drones with thermal imaging capability also made “numerous” passes over the site for any signs of life, yet were unable to locate any pets.
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