BERKELEY -- After a disastrous fire gutted the Berkeley Humane Society in 2010, killing 15 cats and leaving the surviving animals without a shelter, many people wondered if the Humane Society could ever come back.
Instead, it never went away.
"The fire rendered 75 percent of our facility unusable, so we've been making do with the remaining 25 percent," says Executive Director Corinne Lamata. "Last year we completed 829 adoptions, more than ever before. And we're on pace to break that record this year."
With so little space, shelter staffers find themselves juggling animal placement every day.
"Our cats go out to foster homes during the weekdays and come back to us on Saturdays and Sundays to be met by prospective adopters during adoption hours, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.," Lamata says. "The dogs are in our outdoor kennels and are available for adoption Wednesdays through Fridays from noon to 4 and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 to 5."
In addition, the Humane Society continues to offer its other traditional services, including:
So how did they do it?
"We were overwhelmed by support from the community," says Lamata. "From little kids with lemonade stands to grown-ups holding garage sales and creating Facebook pages,
they have rallied around us in a way that really warms my heart."
To thank the neighbors for coming to its rescue, the Humane Society is throwing a free street party on Sept. 22 called Bark (& Meow) Around the Block.
Among the highlights:
Animal behaviorists will also be on hand to dispense advice on pet problem behavior, and dog trainer Nancy Frensley will teach you how to dance with your dog.
"Come one, come all," says Lamata. "Everyone is invited to come eat, drink, and even dance at our event, all in support of helping puppies, kittens, cats and dogs."
Founded under the name "Animal Rescue Haven" in 1927 in a former pool hall in West Berkeley, the Berkeley Humane Society's mission has shifted over the decades to meet the changing needs of the city's animals, adding education programs, community pet support programs and a veterinary hospital.
In the 1970s the Humane Society declared that no healthy or treatable animal in its care would be euthanized. As a result, 100 percent of its healthy or treatable animals have been placed in loving homes the last 40 years, earning it the prestigious Maddie's Fund Lifesaving Award in 2009.
That same year the Humane Society closed its veterinary practice to the public in order to concentrate on providing medical care exclusively for shelter cats and dogs, making it the first veterinary hospital in the East Bay to serve only homeless animals.
Then came the fire in 2010. But plans are underway to build a new and better shelter.
The architecture firm of Noll & Tam, whose previous credits include the Marine Mammal Center in Marin and the new Oakland Zoo Veterinary Hospital, will team with an advisory team from UC Davis, led by Dr. Kate Hurley, winner of the American Humane Association's "Shelter Veterinarian of the Year" award in 2006, to design the new facility to offer the highest possible standard of care. Groundbreaking is expected in the fall of 2014.
"In the meantime, we'll keep doing what we do," says Lamata: "Saving homeless cats and dogs and finding them their forever homes."
What: Bark (& Meow) Around the Block, a street party and celebration of animals.
When: noon to 4 p.m. Sept. 22
Where: Berkeley Humane Society, Ninth and Carleton streets