City's Humane Society Reopens After May Fire

Photo: The Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society is set to reopen Friday, though damage from a fire that occurred last May remains throughout the building.
Karen Ling/Staff
The Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society is set to reopen Friday, though damage from a fire that occurred last May remains throughout the building.

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Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society Reopens

The Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society, which houses many animals up for adoption, reopens after having been closed due to a fire.

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The Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society is reopening its doors at its original location Friday in Southwest Berkeley following an extended closure after the building was damaged in a fire last May.

Due to fire damage remaining throughout the structure, the facility, located at Ninth and Carleton streets, will operate in the building's hospital area until reconstruction plans are made. The humane society will provide medical treatment on location and host animal adoptions each weekend.

"That building was not only our shelter and hospital but also our administrative office," said Executive Director Stacey Street. "Essentially, we were left homeless after the fire."

Street said the move will provide a consistency that she hopes will lead to more adoptions. After the fire, adoptions took place each weekend at various retail stores in the area, and medical treatment was given at Berkeley Dog & Cat Hospital and by the city of Berkeley's Animal Care Services, which lent its space to the shelter.

"After the fire, we were completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from our community," Street said. "That allowed us to get back on our feet."

Other services, including spaying and neutering, will also be offered at the reopened facility. However, animals will remain in foster homes except during adoption periods each weekend.

A dozen cats died in the fire last May, but Street said all animals that survived the fire have since been fostered to area homes or adopted.

El Cerrito resident Elizabeth Haberlin heard about the fire and the need for help from a friend and immediately opened her home to foster a cat, Monkey, who survived the fire.

"He is adorable," she said. "He's been with the Humane Society for more than a year. He's the kind of animal that would have been put down if he hadn't been retrieved."

Haberlin added that she plans to adopt Monkey and continue fostering other animals.

Street said the shelter has been completely reliant on fosters and adoptions since the fire.

"For us, how many animals we can save is all about that continuous flow," she said.

Berkeley resident Susan Brooks and her family have volunteered at the Humane Society for about five years and have fostered around 25 cats.

She fostered a litter of six kittens and the mother and returned four of the kittens to the shelter just before the fire. All four died, yet Brooks focused on continuing to help the shelter.

"Immediately after the fire, it just seemed like there was a lot of outpouring from the community," Brooks said. "They had homeless people donating, saying that the animals needed the money more than they did."

With plans moving forward, Street said the society hopes to use this tragedy as an opportunity to rebuild and maximize the space, which was originally a pool hall.

"We feel we have an obligation to our community to rebuild our facility to do what we do better," Street said. "The facility as it was before had a lot of constraints - it was never built to be a Humane Society or animal shelter."

Street added she hopes construction will start this year, although no timetable is in place. With limited funding - 20 percent from service fees and 80 percent from donations, according to Street - the society is looking for any additional support.

"We're 100 percent committed to getting back to saving animals," Street said. "That's what we're all about."


Mary Susman covers Berkeley communities. Contact her at [email protected]

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