In May of this year, a fire ravaged through the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society (BEBHS), destroying much of the animal shelter. More than two dozen dogs and cats were killed, and the damage to the building which housed the shelter was estimated at $500,000. It looked doubtful as to whether or not the organization would survive.

“After saving more than 40,000 animals over almost a hundred years, the future of the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society could be in jeopardy,” said Stacey Street, executive director, shortly after the fire. “Every day that our shelter is closed means fewer homeless animals that we are able to rescue. Therefore, we will be relying on the continued generosity of the animal welfare community, as well as the continued financial support from the community at large, in order to continue our mission of helping animals in need.”

Friends of animals rose to the challenge. Pet-related businesses throughout the Bay Area chipped in to help the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society with donations. Children sent in money they made from selling cupcakes and lemonade. A fundraiser called “Dogtoberfest” was held last month at Golden Gate Fields, with 10 percent of admission sales going to the shelter. Establishments ranging from Oakland’s Heart and Dagger Saloon to Berkeley’s Saturn Cafe held special promotions to raise money and awareness of the shelter’s plight. In total, the BEBHS received about $600,000 from over 4,000 donors, all of it designated for the Shelter Fire Relief Fund.

The hard work and generosity is paying off. On November 2, the shelter announced they were “back to saving lives” with the arrival of two puppies, nine kittens, and a mother cat. The San Francisco Gate reports that Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society “will be moving back to a portion of its old building at the end of November. The group will reopen its veterinary clinic, where it will return to full-service spaying, neutering and providing medical services for the East Bay’s homeless pet population.”

The way the people and businesses of the Bay Area came together to help the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society shows what can be done when a community pools its resources for a cause. Yet while recent news about the shelter has been encouraging, there is still much work to be done, and more money to be raised.

The BEBHS will need upwards of $1 million to replace the kennels, offices, dog training rooms, lobby, and laundry room destroyed by the fire. That’s an overwhelming sum considering their annual operating budget is about $1.5 million. Still, Stacey Street remains optimistic. “We know we can rebuild,” she says. “After the fire, we got more than 4,000 donations, which showed us the community really values what we do.”

To learn how you can help, either through donations or by volunteering, visit the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society website.

Photo Credit: Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society.

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