Breaking: Fire at animal shelter guts facility

A fire that broke out shortly after 1 a.m. last night gutted the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society in West Berkeley and killed a number of cats.

According to reports, at least a dozen cats were killed, but many more cats and dogs were rescued by volunteers. The entire cat sheltering area at the 9th Street site was destroyed as well as laundry and offices. The society is currently without water, electricity and phones.

The society is asking for “foster” families for the animals. If you can help, email the society.

Update 9:25 a.m. Berkeleyside reader TN reports in the comments below on the fire:

I just walked over to the Humane Society. It does not look heavily damaged, though of course I could only observe from the sidewalk. There doesn’t seem to be major structural issues. I’m not an expert but it doesn’t look like anything close to a total loss.

I was told by the staff standing outside that they are looking for foster homes for both cats and dogs immediately. Cat fosterers are needed more than dogs. I’m signed up and friends of ours called to say that they’d sponsor (pay for expenses) for our fostering. If you want to foster, go down to 9th Street and Carlton and sign up.

Update 10:35 The feline death toll in this morning’s fire at the Humane Society might have been much worse except for the actions of Baby, a pit bull-boxer who lived above the shelter.

Johanna White was asleep in her apartment and didn’t wake up when her smoke detectors went off. She was roused from bed when Baby started to bark. White then alerted the fire department.

Smoke and flames killed twelve cats in the shelter, but all the dogs were able to escape unharmed, according to shelter employee Katherine O’Donnell. The shelter is looking for donations to cover the repair of the building and people to foster the surviving animals. Please send an email to foster@berkeleyhumane.org. or go to http://www.berkeleyhumane.org.

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  • TN

    Oh no! This is horrible!

    Over the years we’ve adopted from the BEBHS and have supported their work. They are located very close to where I live. I walked my dog by there at around 9:45 pm last night as usual and saw nothing particularly amiss.

    The Humane Society’s building has always worried me. It is very old and has been adapted over the years by cutting the space up into a warrren of smaller spaces. I always thought it was a fire trap and worried for the safety of the animals and the staff there. They desperately need a new facility.

    I know that they had plans to build a new building on that site. The financing was to come from the sale of property that the Humane Society owns immediately adjacent to the shelter. It is the buildings that formerly housed the Nexus Institute. They have not been able to sell the property. It has been listed for sale for several years now and was listed before the real estate bust. I don’t know exactly why it hadn’t sold.

    I’ll try to find out more about what’s happening.

  • http://umhai.com/ james

    Ugh.. so sad. Wish I could foster some pups.

  • Maureen Burke

    We have our Berkeley Civic Arts Commission to thank for this mess. They recommended to the City that the Humane Society not be allowed to sell its adjacent building even though the 15 year lease to the Nexus Institute ended in 5/06. Those “artists” had years to seek new digs and assumed, correctly, that the City of Berkeley would prevent the sale of the property, thus making it impossible for the Humane Society to proceed with rehabbing their facility. You can donate at http://www.berkeleyhumane.org if you can’t foster an animal.

  • TN

    Update:

    I just walked over to the Humane Society. It does not look heavily damaged, though of course I could only observe from the sidewalk. There doesn’t seem to be major structural issues. I’m not an expert but it doesn’t look like anything close to a total loss.

    I was told by the staff standing outside that they are looking for foster homes for both cats and dogs immediately. Cat fosterers are needed more than dogs. I’m signed up and friends of ours called to say that they’d sponsor (pay for expenses) for our fostering. If you want to foster, go down to 9th Street and Carlton and sign up.

  • Deb

    The dog who woke the resident is a pitbull mix. Please put that in the title of this post.

  • Megan

    So, so awful. I like to donate regularly to BEBHS — could not have been more impressed by their staff/operation when my family adopted a cat there a few years ago — but just made an extra donation via their website. Took no time, and they offer a Paypal option for security: http://www.berkeleyhumane.org

  • Sarah

    I am a volunteer there and it is heartbreaking to think that some of the cats I was playing with last week are dead. Yes, the facilities are somewhat old, but they truly care about the animals there and do the best with what they got. A year or so ago they repainted the inside and removed the cages from most of the Catopia rooms so the cats would have more space. My understanding is that the adjacent building has been in escrow a few times, but it has always fallen through. They offered to sell the building to Nexus, but they turned them down.

  • Sarah

    Also, if you are interested in fostering, you can email
    foster@berkeleyhumane.org
    Or interested in helping with clean-up and repair
    volunteer@berkeleyhumane.org

  • TN

    The Berkeley Fire Department estimates the damages as 1/2 million dollars. (Oakland Tribune – http://www.insidebayarea.com/top-stories/ci_15125304)

    This is a significant amount of money but for the size of the building not too bad. My impression is that the facility can be restored. I hope there was fire insurance.

  • Lori Kossowsky

    i am heart broken to hear of the news. I’ll pass it around to see if anyone can foster or help with the cleanup. I have a cat, but can’t foster. I shared it with my animal lovers on FB and hope that people will come thru. I wish I could take them all in. I know several vets who foster animals in cases like this and I hope they will help.

  • Sarah

    The woman who was saved by her (amazing) dog could use community support as well for herself, her family, and her pets–including Baby, of course.

    The White Family has a web page up for donation information. If you would like to help them, please visit: https://sites.google.com/site/whitefpf/home

    In addition, they also need a new place to live in Berkeley (2-3 bedroom apartment). They are a great family with the most amazing dog.

    Thank you!

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  • TN

    Update: Saturday

    We were called to pick up our foster cat yesterday. She is a young cat who looks none the worse for wear in surviving the fire and smoke. She will be with us for a couple of weeks living in our spare room.

    My understanding is that the Humane Society now has enough foster homes lined up for all the animals that survived the fire.

    The Humane Society staff and volunteers are doing a remarkable job, being very organized during a very difficult time. Our foster cat came with all the basic supplies she’ll need. They were working out of one room at the already cramped Berkeley Animal Services shelter on 2nd Street.

    The Berkeley Humane Society needs your support.

    http://www.berkeleyhumane.org

  • TN

    Saturday:

    Some pet related businesses in the area are donating 20% of today’s proceeds to the Berkeley Eastbay Humane Society.

    http://rebuildberkeleyhumane.org/