A Bronx, NY man known for his kindness to people and to animals died overnight while climbing a tree to save a cat. His tragic death raises the question of whether municipal services and utility companies should rescue cats from trees and poles, in part as a matter of public safety. While some fire departments, police, animal control officers and utility companies will rescue cats from trees and utility poles, others will not.
Friends, relatives and neighbors described 53 year old Bronx resident Marcial Rios-Aguilar as a good and caring man known for helping others. Marcial moved to the US from Mexico 20 years ago and regularly sent money back to his mother. He would often go out late at night hunting recyclables to turn into cash, and is thought to have been out for that reason when he died attempting to save a cat stuck in a tree at Bronx Park East and Allerton Ave. in Bronxwood late Sunday night or very early in the morning. Officers on patrol found his body around 3am this morning.
Marcial scaled the tree using a rope. He’d gone up a few branches when the branch he was on gave way, sending him to the ground. He was killed by the fall.
According to the New York Daily News, the source of record for the story, friends and relatives who gathered at a makeshift memorial near the tree “prayed, cried and described the unemployed Rios-Aguilar as a kindhearted, generous man who kept pet turtles and birds, and was known to buy food for stray cats.”
Firefighters later came to the scene to attempt to rescue the cat.
Marcial Rios-Aguilar’s death in the service to an animal in need highlights the issue of whether municipal services like the fire department, police department and animal services should take animal reacue calls – especially for cats up trees and util;ity poles – not only for the sake of the animal, but also for the safety of people who will try to rescue the animals themselves. Mr. Rios-Aguilar probably took it upon himself to save the cat without contacting authorities, but his tragic death shows why treed cats are a public safety concern.