When Jill Posener first moved to Berkeley 13 years ago, her thoughts on homeless people owning pets could not have been more different.
Back then, Posener said she thought people should not own animals if they could not afford to take care of them. But she said her interaction with the community at the Albany Bulb — an area near the waterfront in Albany that housed a large homeless encampment until around 2000 — completely shifted her perspective.
“Sometimes this animal or their pets are the only family they have — certainly the only family that loves them unconditionally,” she said.
In 2009, Posener founded the Paw Fund, which, along with the East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and People and Animals Living Safely, conducted a free animal care clinic in People’s Park Sunday afternoon in an effort to provide medical services to pets of low-income or homeless East Bay residents.
According to PALS founder Maya deNola, though there is a large need for accessible vaccinations, it is too far for most homeless and low-income people to get to a clinic or an animal hospital to have their animals treated. Through the cooperation of the three groups, the event came together within the last three weeks, she said.
“We believe that we should, if we can, bring the vaccinations to the people, so to speak,” deNola said. “To prevent the spread of infectious disease, to prevent these puppies from coming to us once they’re already sick.”
About 30 people gathered Sunday afternoon in the park, dogs and cats in tow, to receive the vaccinations, food, collars and medical advice provided at the clinic.
According to East Bay SPCA Humane Advocate Jamie Lowry, her organization first became involved when Posener contacted it advocating for the free clinic. The organization then agreed to provide vaccines, food, flea and tick medication and volunteer time to pull the event together.
Richmond resident Kelta Burns said she came to the clinic simply to keep her two dogs, Mesa and Atlas, up-to-date on their vaccinations.
“I don’t have the money to take them to the vet,” she said. “Last year, when I lived in Montana, I was able to go to the feed store and buy the shots and do it myself.”
Berkeley resident Louise Lewis brought her two dogs — Leilah and Jae Lewis-Volton — to receive treatment she said she has struggled to provide and may not have been able to afford in the future.
“It’s a lifesaver because … it’s very expensive, and I’m disabled and on a very fixed income,” she said. “It was a little hardship, but I wanted (Jae) to have his shots and be healthy.”
Organizers of the event said they hope that this collaboration — the first for the organizations — will continue to provide needed services to the community.
“I know what it feels like to be a little close to the edge,” said Posener. “I know what it would feel like for me if somebody came through for me if I had a need for my animal.”