When you think of cats stuck in trees, you probably also think of firemen rescuing them. There are plenty of cases where this happens, but despite the request of many in Schenectady, New York, the local fire department said one cat stuck in a tree was not its problem.
The young cat had been stuck up a tree in Central Park since at least May 24, though according to one resident’s post, it could have been the day before. But when concerned residents reached out to one of the first agencies people run to in such a case, they were surprised to hear that the Schenectady Fire Department would not get involved.
“They told us that that was not their responsibility, we called, and they said it was not their job,” Kelly Walsh, one of those concerned for the cat, said, according to WRBG-TV.
Despite the seemingly cold response, there was a reason the department wouldn’t get involved — the same reason that made the rescue a very tricky one.
The cat wasn’t just up a regular-sized tree: She was nearly 100 feet up an enormously tall tree. As residents grew more concerned, a man named Robert Herzog stepped forward to try to rescue the cat.
Herzog owns his own tree service, so he had at least some of the equipment and training necessary to retrieve the cat. But as it turned out, he got stuck during the climb, and the fire department had to be called out to rescue the would-be rescuer.
“Schenectady Fire Department came out to get me and then I said, ‘You guys got me, now go up and get the cat,’ and they said it wasn’t their concern. So here we are, the cat is still stuck in the tree,” Herzog recalled.
“We cannot operate our vehicle to go up there and get him,” Assistant Fire Chief Donald Mareno said. “Can’t do it safely, we don’t have the equipment to do it, so we were unable to assist the cat. The cat is towards the top of the tree, and there’s a lot of branches so we can’t maneuver the truck through those branches to get him.”
Though frustrated by this response, the residents pulled together to try something else. To complicate matters, a private tree service company couldn’t just waltz onto city property and start fiddling with the tree — it would need to get permission.
On Facebook, Dr. Valerie Lang Waldin, one of the concerned locals and an Instructor of Animal Law, said that the fire department’s reluctance started to make sense when she saw the tree in question.
“I was told by police dispatch we needed permission from City Hall to get the large tree service in there,” she wrote on Facebook. “It seemed unreasonable to me until I saw the height and location and condition of the tree.”
Waldin ended up texting the mayor and getting permission, and a man named Mark with Allmark Tree Service performed the rescue free of cost. The fire department attended, as well, to help if it was needed and if the cat got low enough for the department to assist.
At one point, though, everyone was worried the rescue might turn into a recovery.
“As Mark was working his machinery (cherry picker bucket like thing) the cat started running from branch to branch,” Waldin continued. “He brilliantly went to the top of the tree and directed her downward, but she came to a point where there were no branches, and she fell.
“I would say it was a 60-80 foot fall. She did not land on her feet.”
Through the work of many kindhearted people, the cat was checked out by a veterinarian and proclaimed healthy. People were ready to help cover the costs of vet care and the tree service rescue, but it was all waived.
While many have protested that cats in trees don’t need rescuing, Waldin stressed that this case was unusual because of the size of the tree and said it’s a myth that in all situations cats can “just come down a tree.” The cat had already been in the tree a week without food or water, subjected to extreme weather, by the time she was rescued.
The cat’s owners were found, and the cat — named Bae — was able to go home where she belonged, though thanks to her high-profile rescue, she had at least one person waiting to adopt her if necessary. Bae had been missing since May 16.
Her owners got some firm suggestions on how to properly ID their cat and prevent her from going on such adventures in the future, but all ended well, thanks to a caring group of locals.
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