It’s every animal lover’s nightmare: a shelter fire burning out of control, after hours, with animals trapped inside. This nightmare became reality for the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society (BEBHS) early in the morning of May 20, 2010.
A fire destroyed the cat housing area, laundry room, shelter offices, administration offices, board room, and an apartment above the shelter. Tragically, fifteen beautiful cats from our adoption area died of smoke inhalation. No animals suffered any burn injuries.
The exact cause of the fire has not yet been determined, but it appears to have started in or near the laundry room. There is no indication that it was anything other than an accident.
At the time of the fire, BEBHS had 100 animals in our care. Most of them have since been adopted; a few have been transferred to other agencies. We were thrilled that 33 animals were adopted in one weekend alone, June 12 and 13, during the Maddie’s Fund Matchmaker Adoptathon. Our remaining animals, 5 dogs and 29 cats and kittens, are in foster care or in borrowed kennel space at Berkeley Animal Care Services, the City’s public animal control shelter. Our most immediate goal is to find permanent homes for these doubly-homeless pets, and we continue to have adoption hours every weekend, as detailed on our website: www.berkeleyhumane.org.
Many of the programs offered at BEBHS, such as PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support)/East Bay, the Pet Food Pantry, and the K-9 College, have operated without interruption. Displaced veterinary hospital staff have been able to work out of a small clinic set up at Berkeley Animal Care Services, and to perform many surgeries in spaces loaned by veterinary hospitals around the Bay Area. In this time of dire need, additional animals have been cared for by individual veterinarians and veterinary practices donating their services, facilities, and supplies.
Shelter staff, temporarily without a shelter in which to work, have been reassigned to support other BEBHS-related projects, such as processing donations and coordinating foster care. Administrative staff continues to work out of temporary office space at the former Scharffen Berger chocolate factory, located at Heinz Ave. and Eighth St., three blocks from the shelter. Volunteers, most of whom are trained in hands-on animal care, have temporarily shifted their efforts to publicity and outreach, and to preparation for the 13th Annual Bay to Barkers Dog Walk and Festival on August 1, 2010.
During this difficult time, the outpouring of support from our community has helped us stay optimistic about the future. We are grateful for all donations, which can be made at www.berkeleyhumane.org. We are still in need of funding to help us rebuild, but the staff, Board of Directors, and volunteers of the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society remain committed to serving pets in need and their human companions in every way we can.
Emily King Colwell is the Volunteer Manager at Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society.