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Damage on the 24th floor of an apartment high-rise at 200 Wellesley in Toronto on Sept. 27, 2010.

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

Two hundred canary-type birds were removed from one apartment in the downtown high rise that was evacuated when a fire broke out last week

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was alerted to the hundreds of birds, which were found in "poor living conditions," said Alison Cross, OSPCA spokesperson.

"We believe that they were living in those conditions before the fire," she said, adding an investigation is under way.

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The fire broke out in the Toronto Community Housing building at 200 Wellesley St. E on Friday evening, forcing about 1,200 out of their homes. Monday night all of the residents temporarily evicted by the six-alarm blaze were offered accommodation in hotels or furnished apartments, officials said.

Only 54 of the 1,200 residents chose to remain in a temporary shelter across the street from their building.

The investigation into Friday's fire, which began in a unit on the 24th floor, is in the preliminary stages but it's believed that an "excessive" amount of items, such as newspapers, in the unit started contributed to its intensity.

Ms. Cross said more details about the birds' condition could not be released because the investigation is in the preliminary stages.

It's too early to say whether charges will be laid or what charges those could be, she said. The OSPCA has the authority to lay charges under provincial legislation and the Criminal Code.

She said she couldn't release any information about the owner, including whether he or she has been located and talked to.

Mitzie Hunter, Toronto Community Housing chief administrative officer, said she couldn't comment on whether TCH was aware of the birds because of the investigation, but that an annual inspection of each unit took place in the fall of 2009.

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The OSPCA is also looking into the living conditions of a cat, which was found needing immediate veterinary care.

After the fire broke out, Toronto Animal Services attempted to rescue some pets. They came across the birds and cat and alerted the OSPCA, Ms. Cross said.

The groups will continue to care for domestic animals who have owners who were made temporarily homeless by the fire.

They are asking for donations of food for both cats and dogs, cat litter, disposable aluminum pans to be used as litter boxes and dishes.

Donations can be dropped off at the Wellesley Community Centre or at the Toronto Animal Services location.

Police are also asking for anyone with photos or video taken before or after the fire to share it with them. Police Inspector Gary Meissner said he couldn't say whether there's an indication of anything suspicious because the investigation by the Ontario Fire Marshal is ongoing.

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