Berkeley Humane Society helps transport animals away from Hurricane Irma

Aslesha Kumar/Staff

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On Thursday, Berkeley Humane Society partnered with the Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation, or ARF, and the East Bay SPCA to transport 60 dogs and 92 cats away from the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to escape Hurricane Irma.

The Humane Society of Broward County informed Berkeley Humane on Tuesday that the hurricane would cause damage to the area. Berkeley Humane, ARF, East Bay SPCA and the Humane Society of Broward County decided to clear the shelter space so they could better respond to recovery efforts and keep the animals away from the natural disaster.

“The Tony LaRusso Animal Rescue Foundation will initially receive the animals and then transfer and disperse the animals to other well-known animal shelters and rescues in the Bay Area,” the Humane Society of Broward County said on its website. “This will essentially empty the Humane Society of Broward County so the shelter can assist Florida residents with pets after the storm.”

The animals arrived about 2 p.m. at Hayward Executive Airport on Thursday. They went through medical checks and will continue go through more extensive ones to ensure that they are ready for adoption.

Elena Bicker, executive director of ARF, said in a press release that past storms in Florida left the Broward County rescue without water and electricity.

“Our goal now is to find these ‘bicoastal’ dogs and cats loving and safe homes here in the Bay Area,” Bicker said in the release. “In the end, we’re not only rescuing these animals’ from the path of a destructive storm, but also freeing up space and resources in their local area so more animals receive help during a time of crisis.”

According to Jeffrey Zerwekh, executive director of Berkeley Humane, Berkeley Humane is accepting donations in the hopes that they will help absorb some of the extra costs of giving the animals medical treatment, food and water.

Thomas Altherr, director of development and communications at Berkeley Humane, encouraged people who are interested to adopt one of the new animals. He added that adoption fees will be waived this week.

Altherr also said Berkeley Humane took in the animals because “saving animal lives is what Berkeley Humane is about.”

Zach Groff, a local animal rights activist, commended Berkeley Humane and its partners on their efforts to protect the animals from Hurricane Irma.

“I support their work — it’s extremely valuable to have people looking out for the animals in Berkeley and (who) are so dedicated to getting animals out of this hurricane,” Groff said.

According to Altherr, Berkeley Humane is unsure whether they will bring in more animals affected from the hurricane to the Bay Area. Altherr said, however, that Berkeley Humane is open to providing more help if necessary.

“If they seem healthy we want to get them out. We want to spread the love around,” Zerwekh said. “But it really is a lot of work for us here — the volunteers and medical staff.”

Staff writer Carina Zhao contributed to this report.

Jessíca Jiménez covers schools and communities. Contact her at [email protected] and and follow her on Twitter at @jesscajimenez_dc.