Animal shelters in the city of Berkeley are distributing essential goods to pet owners in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Berkeley Humane, a nonprofit animal shelter, has provided pet owners with more than 8,000 pounds of dog and cat food since the start of Alameda County’s shelter-in-place order, according to Berkeley Humane spokesperson Morgan Pulleyblank. She added that the organization’s Pet Food Pantry program has seen a large increase in the number of requests for dog and cat food.
“We know that when people have to choose between feeding themselves and feeding their pets, many people will go hungry to make sure their pet is fed,” Pulleyblank said in an email. “We believe that nobody should have to make this choice.”
Even though many shelters have continued to foster and adopt out animals, COVID-19 has created significant challenges for shelters, which typically rely on volunteers, community efforts and donations to operate, according to Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy spokesperson Suzannah Smith. Pulleyblank added that community support would be vital to compensate for the loss of in-person events that typically make up Berkeley Humane’s annual budget.
While some shelters are able to remain open, many have been forced to shut down temporarily, according to Kitty Jones, community organizer for Direct Action Everywhere. Jones, who also volunteers at the Berkeley Animal Rights Center and Jelly’s Place animal shelter, added that many organizations that rely on community outreach have faced challenges and closed as a result of shelter-in-place orders.
“I think a lot of people want to volunteer, but there’s not a lot that they can do since most shelters are completely closed to the public,” Jones said. “Even with no volunteers, shelters have to pay for rent, cat and dog food, medicine and so many other resources. That’s difficult when many shelters are struggling financially.”
Despite these challenges, shelters in Berkeley and across the country are experiencing an increase in adoption and fostering cases, according to Smith. Pulleyblank also said Berkeley Humane has seen an increased interest in adopting and fostering animals over the past month.
One possible reason for this increase is that people now have much more time on their hands, and fostering animals would provide companionship for those currently working from home, according to Jones. Pulleyblank added that fostering is an ideal way for individuals who expect to resume working soon to help shelters.
“Last month, there were over 20 large dogs, and I think people saw an opportunity to help others in need,” Jones said. “People reached out and started fostering and adopting since they finally had time, and it seems like it’s been a trend across Berkeley.”