MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The director of a Minnesota animal rescue is trying to get back on her feet after she lost her home, and some animals, in a massive fire.

“I got a frantic phone call that my house was on fire, and I flew down there,” said Toni Maat. “And by the time I got there, there were three different fire departments working it, and only three of the cats got out.”

Five rescue cats died Saturday in the fire at Maat’s Lonsdale home. Two cats are still missing.

Maat, the director of the Windmill Animal Shelter, has been an animal lover as long as she can remember.

“My mom says before I was even three,” she said.

Maat has been running the shelter in Elko New Market for 24 years. She’s rescued and found homes for more than 2,000 animals, which get to roam free at the shelter. She says losing animals in the fire was like losing part of her family.

“They really are my kids,” Maat said. “If they hadn’t been living with me, they wouldn’t have had more than when I found them, because they were rescues I found on the road.”

Maat’s home is a total loss. Since Saturday, she’s had hundreds of phone calls from people all over the state wanting to help.

“I’m astounded at how many people care about me,” she said. “It’s actually kind of embarrassing.”

Maat is still trying to run her DNR wildlife rescue out of her backyard. She’s been struggling to keep the shelter afloat from a lack of funds. But since the fire, people have been calling wanting to adopt more animals.

“There are too many people that depend on this place,” Maat said. “That makes me feel like I need to keep doing this.”


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