Berkeley Humane Society takes in animals from Northern California fires

Maya Elbaz/Staff

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Berkeley Humane Society animal shelter took in 15 cats Wednesday as a part of the North Bay fire relief efforts, according to Berkeley Humane executive director Jeffrey Zerwekh.

Zerwekh said Pets Lifeline Animal Shelter, a shelter in Sonoma, had to evacuate its animals to Marin Humane, and then from there, some animals were transferred to Berkeley Humane. The first request was for the 15 cats, but Zerwekh said Berkeley Humane anticipates receiving more cats and dogs soon.

Because the fires are still burning, Zerwekh said he could not estimate the number of animals that need to be rescued, but he mentioned that Berkeley Humane is “preparing for the fact that this is going to be a long-term effort.”

The biggest concern with this influx of animals, according to Zerwekh, is the shelter’s capacity. At any given time, Berkeley Humane can provide shelter for about 100 animals. He said they need to create more space in order to bring in new animals that are victims to this natural disaster.

Marin Humane, the shelter that sent the cats to Berkeley Humane, has received about 380 animals, according to Lisa Bloch, director of marketing and communications at Marin Humane. In addition to cats and dogs, Marin Humane is now sheltering many species, including turkeys, birds, rabbits and even a Chinese water dragon.

“We have a 100-pound tortoise named Alfonso,” Bloch said.

Urging people to adopt the animals, Zerwekh added that these animals should not be at the shelter but “should be lying on your couch.”

“If anyone is thinking of adopting, now is the time,” Zerwekh said.

Bloch said that even with donations from their local community, Marin Humane needs more funding. She added that Marin Humane’s campus is large, so capacity is not its primary concern.

“A monetary donation is the best way to help us,” Bloch said.

Berkeley Humane’s new cats are not strays nor abandoned; they are cats that were already ready for adoption in Marin and Sonoma counties, according to Zerwekh. He said these animals are not going back to Sonoma County, so they “need new loving families in Berkeley.”


                                                                                  Marin Humane/Courtesy

Berkeley Humane also expects to receive many pets after families return to their homes and “reevaluate their living situation,” Zerwekh added. He said that when people are trying to rebuild their lives after a natural disaster, they often give away their pets.

The fires have uprooted many families, and in these chaotic times, people do not always have a place for their pets, according to Bloch. She said Marin Humane can assure them a place to stay.

“We gave them some small bit of comfort in knowing that their pets are safe with us,” Bloch said.

Contact Rishabh Nijhawan at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @realRishNij.