Kiki Is Healthy Again but in Legal Limbo as Her Rescuer, Firefighter Al Machado, Basks in the Glory of His Heroics
"It (Kiki) really needed air and it couldn't wait."
-- Al Machado
Kiki, the three-year-old tiger Angora who was saved by mouth-to-mouth resuscitation administered by New Bedford, Massachusetts firefighter Al Machado on September 9th, has made a full recovery and is ready to go home. (See photo on the right of her and her savior.)
Since her legal guardians, forty-three-year-old Warren Niles and forty-four-year-old Joan T. Ferreira, have been charged with the arson that nearly claimed her life, she unfortunately does not have anywhere to go.
At last report, she was being attended to by veterinarian Nicholas Dagenais at the New England Animal Hospital in nearby Fairhaven but it is unlikely that she will be able to remain there must longer. Putting her up for either adoption or placing her in foster care are distinct possibilities but the viability of either option depends upon the wishes of her owners who have not publicly commented on her future.
Since their other two cats perished in the blaze, returning Kiki to them before the charges against them have been adjudicated would be irresponsible. Having rejected a request from the local prosecutor that they be held on a $25,000 bond, District Court Judge Robert Baylor has released the defendants on their own recognizance provided that they report to a probation officer three times a week and undergo psychiatric evaluations.
In addition to Kiki, firefighters were able to save three other cats, four dogs, a chinchilla, a ferret, and several frogs. No individuals were injured in the blaze.
The building suffered an undetermined amount of fire, smoke, and water damage to all three floors and it is unclear from press reports if the tenants have been allowed to return home. It could very well be that Kiki no longer has a home to return to even if the courts were inclined to return her to Niles and Ferreira.
Investigators allege that the duo torched a pile of unspecified materials in their bedroom in order to cash in on a renter's insurance policy. Niles also is suspected of setting fire to a doormat on September 8th. That blaze was extinguished before it could do any damage and that presumably led to the September 9th conflagration.
The prosecution's claim that the couple are firebugs is buttressed by the fact that they have put in three previous insurance claims for burned vehicles. Their shyster, Michael Prevost, strenuously denies that they either torched their pad or that they even have a renter's insurance policy.
While Kiki's life has been put on hold pending resolution of her guardianship, Machado has become an international celebrity pursued by the likes of The Tonight Show, The Today Show, Inside Edition, Animal Planet, and People Magazine.
"I'm kinda thrown back," he admitted to The Standard Times of New Bedford on September 12th. (See "Firefighter Perplexed by Media Spotlight from Cat Rescue.") "Firefighters save people all the time and don't get this kind of credit for it."
Like all true heroes, he is far too modest. Although details of Kiki's rescue are somewhat contradictory, it is known that Machado administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to her on at least two separate occasions. During the interim, paramedics gave her oxygen via a specially-designed pet oxygen mask that a number of fire departments recently have added to their arsenal of life-saving devices. (See photo below of an unidentified cat receiving oxygen.)
When asked by the press to describe what it tasted like to give mouth-to-mouth to a cat, Machado replied succinctly, "Like fur." As to why he did it, he added, "It (Kiki) really needed air and it couldn't wait."
The New Bedford Fire Department and others around the world that have purchased pet oxygen masks and provided their members with the go ahead to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to cats and other animals are to be commended for doing so. These are wonderful advancements in animal welfare that should be applauded by all.
It is a pity, however, that most fire departments in America still steadfastly refuse to rescue cats stranded in trees, on electrical lines, and on other high places. (See Cat Defender posts of March 20, 2008 and February 20, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Bone-Lazy, Mendacious Firefighters Are Costing the Lives of Both Cats and Humans by Refusing to Do Their Duty" and "Stray Cat Ignominiously Named Stinky Is Rescued from Rooftop by Good Samaritans After Fire Department Refuses to Help.")
Rescuing cats should not be limited to an afterthought whenever human lives and property are imperiled. Individuals have died attempting to rescue stranded cats and firefighters could prevent numerous human as well as feline fatalities by offering their services.
Firemen often argue that getting down cats from high places is too dangerous a job for them but it is difficult to see how that is even remotely comparable to entering burning buildings in order to rescue them and other animals.
The attitude of firefighters in America is in stark contrast to that of their counterparts in England and Scotland who do not hesitate to rescue stranded cats. The same holds true for utility companies in the isles who frequently cut off electricity in order to rescue cats stranded on their poles. American utilities sometimes can be prevailed upon to act but not very often.
Contrary to what most Americans steadfastly believe, doing one's job and occasionally lending a helping hand are not mortal sins. Au contraire, there is much to be gained through cooperation.
Moreover, by refusing to rescue stranded animals firefighters are leaving themselves open to the eventuality that some individuals may one day be tempted to start fires in order to get their attention. It is therefore preferable that public servants take the bull by the horns and do the right thing tout de suite instead of leaving private citizens to their own devices.
Finally, the frauds and blowhards at PETA announced in a September 22nd press release that the New Bedford Fire Department had been selected to receive the organization's "Compassionate Fire Department Award." (See "New Bedford Firefighters Receive PETA Award for Heroic Rescue of Animals.") The commemoration consists of a framed certificate and a thank you card but no money.
Considering all the thousands of cats, dogs, and other animals that PETA indiscriminately slaughters each year, this is an award that Machado and his colleagues should politely refuse, especially if they truly care about animals. (See Cat Defender posts of January 29, 2007 and February 9, 2007 entitled, respectively, "PETA's Long History of Killing Cats and Dogs Is Finally Exposed in North Carolina Courtroom" and "Verdict in PETA Trial: Littering Is a Crime but Not the Mass Slaughter of Innocent Cats and Dogs.")
Photos: John Sladewki of The Standard Times (Kiki and Machado) and Pets America (cat receiving oxygen).