Monday, November 12, 2018

Update on Butte County fires

Honey Run Covered Bridge remains.
Photo by Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle
If you ever visited the town of Paradise, California, then you are familiar with the Honey Run Covered Bridge. Built 123 years ago and listed on National Register of Historic Places, it was thought to be the last surviving structure of its kind in the United States: a three-span Pratt-style truss bridge. It has now been reduced to nothing more than smoldering ash. A looming symbol of the devastation and loss of life caused by the Camp Fire in Butte County.

As the smoke continues to impact the Bay Area, we have received many inquires as to the status of the shelter animal rescue efforts. If there is any good news in this tragic story, it is that there is a strong and well-organized animal disaster response team in the North Valley area. The shelter dogs and cats in Paradise have all been relocated safely.

Berkeley Humane did receive an initial request for supplies, such as pet food and travel carriers, which we delivered to the Chico area on Saturday. We stand at the ready to respond in a greater capacity if needed, but at this time there has not been an additional request for supplies nor a request to transport animals to the Bay Area. Local animal welfare volunteers are coordinating with the Office of Emergency Services, which is exactly how the response in a major emergency should work.

It is vital that individuals and small rescue groups do not self-deploy. This causes confusion and animals that may have had a chance to be reunited with their owners could be separated forever. It is also important to not start collecting and sending supplies that are not specifically requested. Donated items that are not needed can pile-up and become burdensome in a disaster area if they are not able to be put to good use.

If you do not have a disaster plan for your own family, we urge you to make one today. 
Click here for resources you need to get started.

We will keep you up to date when there are additional updates to Berkeley Humane’s disaster response to the fires on our Facebook page or via email (sign up for our email list here). 

In the meantime, please be safe and hug your pets just a little tighter today.

DON'T FORGET: We still have two wonderful dogs available for adoption from the Carr Fire rescue in August 2018: Jason and Lilian.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Black Cats and Halloween: An Old Wives Tale?

Will Berkeley Humane have black cats available for adoption during the Halloween season?

black cat laying down, looking at camera


There is an old wives tale which cautions shelters and rescues from adopting out black cats near Halloween, due to the idea that people with evil intentions are on the hunt for black cats just to use them for ritualized abuse or sacrifice. 

However, evidence shows that this simply is not true.  

There are no confirmed statistics, court cases, or studies that support the claim that this type of serious crime is prevalent or even exists at all. Meanwhile, there are millions of black cats entering shelters every year who we know need to find homes, even in October!
black kitten with white markings looking to the left

Though the individual personalities and looks of these cats vary widely, solid black cats often get over looked in favor of less common coat colors. We tend to observe an even higher percentage of black cats in autumn as kitten season begins to wind down, so it is particularly important that these cats and kittens don’t miss out on any opportunities to find their new homes.  

Berkeley Humane is committed to ensure that every adopter provides the animal with a loving home. We want every pet to be well cared for, regardless of their looks or the time of year. So Berkeley Humane's adoption specialists spend considerable time with each family before they take their new pet home to ensure that they are prepared to be great pet parents.  

The way we see it, October is actually a great time to open your home and heart to a beautiful black cat, or maybe even two!

Meet some of the wonderful black cats available for adoption at Berkeley Humane on our website.

close up of black cat looking at camera


Thursday, August 30, 2018

Going Back to School is for the Dogs

Train the Bay logoBy Nancy Frensley, CPDT-KA, CAP2, CGC Evaluator, and AKC Scent Work JudgeBerkeley Humane’s Manager of Behavior and Training

This is the time of year when families all across the Bay Area embrace going back to school, and it’s a good time to remember your canine companions as well. Berkeley Humane’s professional trainers would like to remind the Bay Area community that your four-legged friends, young and old, can equally benefit from going back to school! Puppies ready to start training school for the first time or senior dogs looking to learn new tricks – we have engaging canine courses designed to fit you and your pet.

That’s why Berkeley Humane is so excited to announce our new Train the Bay website at:

Train the Bay is the pet behavior and training program of Berkeley Humane. It offers appropriate socialization and training, which helps you and your dog understand how to behave in each situation you encounter.

Benefits of Continued Training

photo of a rescue dog sitting politely
Keeping dogs in school has several benefits. It can help resolve behavior challenges as well as educate you about dog behavior. It will also help steer you toward your goals. Training provides both mental and physical exercise for your dog. 

Training is all about you and your dog moving together as a team. It is a time to bond and engage with one another, making your dog part of your team.

Going to school with your dog has many social benefits, too. Some students even pair up with compatible classmates for play or training sessions outside of class.

Times Have Changed

We no longer look upon training as simply teaching a dog to produce a behavior on cue. We now do it in a way that creates enjoyable and productive interactions between humans and canines. Train the Bay is based on scientifically-proven positive reinforcement — using food, toys, and fun.

What’s Best for Your Dog?

For the dog that is already trained for everyday activities, we recommend enrolling in one of our tricks or canine good citizen classes. In the event your honor student has already passed the canine good citizen (CGC), we offer both of the advanced CGC certifications.
Interested in exploring dog sports? We offer both rally and scent work classes. Your dog will love coming to scent work classes, because sniffing is what they do naturally -- in a less formal way.

In the event you are beginning with a new dog in your life or want to refresh previous training, Train the Bay offers a variety of classes that teach the basic skills, including special sessions for small dogs and young puppies.

We also offer seminars and workshops on pertinent topics. This October, we are offering pet first aid and CPR. Seminars on dog behavior problems, such as reactivity and aggression, are offered regularly.

Find Out More

Now has never been a better time to go back to school…with your dog!

All of our services and classes are located at If you have questions or need help determining the right class for you and your dog, please email us at

cute rescue dog looking up

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

California Fire Rescue

Crates ready for animals with smoke-filled skies in Shasta County.
Donate to help Berkeley Humane's Rescue efforts.

Emergency Rescue Update 

From Jeffrey Zerwekh, Executive Director

Uncontrolled fire causes fear – there is the heat, acrid smell, falling ash, irritation to the eyes along with smoke so heavy that every breath takes effort. This is what we experienced as we began to remove dogs from their kennels yesterday in Shasta County. It was a lot for us, and we could see it was also impacting the dogs. Stress levels were high. We really were not sure if they would even come willingly.

These are large dogs, used to living among forested trails and wide-open yards. Some of them have been in the shelter for more than six months and although they have been provided wonderful care by the local shelter, we were concerned that moving them into a transport vehicle might be too much for them. Might they lash out or try to break free? How hard was this going to be?

Then something amazing happened. As each one was led across the parking lot and into our Mobile Adoption Center (MAC), they practically loaded themselves into their transportation kennels. They willingly climbed the stairs into the vehicle with almost no encouragement and quickly settled into their designated space.

We gave each a few head scratches and whispered, “It’s soon going to be a lot better.” It was a promise that we repeated for them, as much as for us. There was little doubt that the stress of the day was starting to catch up with us.

We were asked to take 10 large dogs, which is the exact number of kennels we can fit in the MAC, so it was going to be a full ride. Just as we were preparing to leave we were asked to take just one more – a puppy. The puppy who had been returned from a foster family who now needed to focus on their own possible evacuation. The puppy was quickly loaded into a travel kennel that was placed between the two front seats. Now the MAC was not only full, it was complete.

We still did not know how all of the dogs would handle the four-hour drive back to Berkeley. But they were quiet, except for a lot of heavy panting that seemed to diminish the farther we traveled away from the smoke that they had been breathing for more than a week. We noticed we also began to breathe deeper – and we had only been in that environment for one day.

Despite the late hour, we arrived back at Berkeley Humane to some fanfare. There was a receiving line of volunteers waiting to help unload and welcome our new guests. Each animal’s name was announced as they emerged from the MAC as if we were exiting a maternity ward calling out the names of first-born children to family and friends. The dogs seemed to love the hoopla and as each one entered their kennels, they found that the volunteers and staff had been hard at work preparing for their arrival. Each dog had a soft bed waiting for them complete with blankets, toys, treats a big bowl of food, and cool refreshing water. We tucked each one in and said goodnight.

Today is a new beginning, out of harm’s way. We began this morning with medical checkups and introduced them to the sights and smells of our West Berkeley neighborhood. Today has been a good day.

Your financial support is still urgently needed.

While the Carr Fire is still raging out of control and is one of the most devastating disasters in California’s history, at least these dogs are with us now. 
But we suspect there will be more to come, and we will be ready and continue to respond.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more rescue updates. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

300 Days and Counting

Photo of Kaye looking at the camera with text that reads: 300 Days

300 Days and Counting

photo of Kaye with text that reads: This cute girl still needs a home #adoptmeKaye is celebrating her 300th day with Berkeley Humane this week, and although we’re big fans of anniversaries, this isn’t cause for celebration – unless a party will bring Kaye an adopter!

Kaye is the last of 150 animals to find a home here in the Bay Area that were all evacuated in advance of Hurricane Irma from a shelter in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Why has it taken so long to find a new home for this sweet, 30-pound girl? Because her story did not start in Florida. Kaye began her life on the streets of Puerto Rico, was rescued, and sent to the Humane Society of Broward County (HSBC) in Ft. Lauderdale.

Then in September 2017, Hurricane Irma threatened Ft. Lauderdale. With less than 24 hours to plan, HSBC's entire shelter population was put onto a plane and flown to California. Once safely landed, the dogs and cats were greeted by a collation of animal welfare agencies, including Tony LaRussa's Animal Rescue Foundation, East Bay SPCA, and Berkeley Humane. The animals were quickly divided between the three partners. Once back at Berkeley Humane, we discovered that our new arrivals included three very shy dogs originally from the streets of Puerto Rico. We named them Holly, Kendra, and Kaye.

At Berkeley Humane, all of our animals come to us from larger public facilities that are often overcrowded or under-resourced. It is not uncommon for these animals to need individualized behavior plans to help them acclimate to their new environments. However, Holly, Kendra, and Kaye were different in that they had never actually bonded with people and didn't have a clue how to be a typical family pet. 

Berkeley Humane's patient and loving team of volunteers and staff worked hard over the months to come to slowly bring out their individual personalities. Holly and Kendra were eventually adopted, but as of today, Kaye has not found her perfect match. The right family for Kaye will recognize her sweet personality, but will also give her the time she needs to build her confidence in a loving and patient environment. 

“Kaye should not be forced or rushed into new situations – she will decide when she’s ready. She’ll need time to adjust to a home at her own pace,” explains Jesse Schumaker, Berkeley Humane's Animal Care Specialist. “She’d love a home where she can have dog friends. Her personality really blossoms when she is around other dogs who are confident and can show her the way.”

The good news is that Kaye does like people. She can just take a little while to warm up to someone, but she is playful and food motivated. Very food motivated! 

“Kaye does bond very strongly with people, especially people who feed her. She loves deli meat,” laughs Michelle Jewell, Berkeley Humane's Veterinary/Adoption Specialist. “With food and lots of patience, her adopter will soon have a 30-pound shadow following them all around their home.” 

Kaye's one-year anniversary is coming up quickly and if ever there was a dog that deserves to be out of a shelter and into a loving home, it's our girl Kaye.  The volunteers and staff at Berkeley Humane are appealing to our community to help find Kaye, who has traveled over 4,000 miles, find a happy ending to her story.

Please share
You can help by sharing this blog post or sharing Kaye’s video to help find her perfect match.

Think Kaye might be the one for you? 
Our staff can provide guidance and adoption advice for her love and care. “The things that the Berkeley Humane staff emphasized about adopting a traumatized animal were really helpful, even despite our previous experiences with other shelter animals,” says Erik, adopter of Holly (another dog from Puerto Rico who was rescued with Kaye). “They will prepared you for the extra time and effort that is necessary to Kaye’s adjustment.”

Contact us
Berkeley Humane

2700 Ninth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710

Monday, July 2, 2018

Keeping Pets Safe During 4th of July

Are you as excited as we are about July 4th festivities?!  

We’re getting ready for fun in the sun, BBQ’ing with friends, and some much-needed downtime snuggling with our pets. However, with all of the people coming and going and the loud noises of fireworks and firecrackers, this is a time of year when many pets go missing after escaping from their homes. This Independence Day, be sure to factor your pet into your plans. 

Here’s how to help your animals avoid the stress of this holiday:

    Photo credit: Brooke Jacobs
  • Keep your pets indoors to avoid fireworks or firecracker displays. Animals spooked by fireworks may startle and want to bolt. Close the doors and windows, and turn on some soothing music to help distract them from the noise outside.
  • Be sure your pet is wearing ID tags and is microchipped so they can be promptly returned to you in case of an unexpected escape.Remember to make sure your pet's microchip is registered and up-to-date with your current contact information.
  • Crowds and loud noises can be really overwhelming for animals, and fireworks can be downright terrifying, so never bring your pet to a fireworks display.
  • Do not leave pets unattended outside during the days leading up to, during, and immediately following July 4th. If you normally leave your pet(s) outside or in a backyard, bring them inside to a space that is quieter. It’s possible for pets outside to panic and run away or hurt themselves while trying to hide or escape.
    a scruffy terrier mix is wearing a stars and stripes bandanna.
  • Alcoholic drinks and human food need to be kept out of your companion’s reach. Same goes for citronella candles/oils, glow-sticks, matches, and lighter fluid — these can be lethal when pets comes into contact with them.
  • Keep your pets on their normal diet. (No hot dogs or ice cream, no matter how cute and well-behaved those little munchkins are!)
  • Don’t leave animals in the car. A matter of minutes in a car on a warm summer day is enough to cause serious health effects — including death. 

If despite your best efforts, if your pet does go missing, don’t panic. Call neighbors, get friends together to help you search, and post signs immediately. Check area garages, sheds, under cars and decks, and around shrubbery, because your pet might be seeking areas to hide. Call or visit your local public shelter or animal control facility (in Berkeley, call Berkeley Animal Care Services at (510) 981-6600) to check for your missing pet and file a lost pet report.

Do you have additional tips for keeping your pets calm during fireworks? Share them in the comments!

Have a fun, safe 4th of July!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

“Dominance” in Dog Training and Behavior, Explained

Guest post by Nancy Frensley, CPDT-KA, CAP2, CNWI, CGC Evaluator, Senior Behavior and Training Manager, Berkeley Humane

Dog trainers sometimes still talk about a dog being dominant or dominating. This terminology has affected how people behave toward their dogs and is thankfully, falling out of use. The term is common among biologists who primarily study species in wild settings. It has a use and a precise definition in that context. It describes how a specific species or sub species controls resources in a domain and it can describe population dynamics.

People sometimes excuse their dogs' rude behavior toward other dogs by saying, “He’s alpha.” And some famous trainers have recommended ways to get dogs to change their behavior by “dominating them in physical ways. These are moves that all too often get used for every behavior an owner doesn’t like such as not coming quickly enough or barking at another dog.

Dog trainers, many of whom had been military dog handlers during World War II, were quick to pick up early theories about the dog/human relationship, which were loosely based on observations of captive wild wolves and how they behaved toward each other. This led observers to the believe that “dominance” was a personality trait.

It was thought, at the time, that if we just mirrored a wolf pack with our own dogs, We could solve all behavior and training problems. Dog owners were instructed to go to the mat with their dogs and always win, no matter how exhausting it might be, and people dutifully did so, pinning mystified and frightened dogs to the ground until they gave up (or bit the owners)

Using these theories put both trainers and pet owners into conflict with the dogs they loved. The whole misguided movement resulted in the widespread use of abusive training techniques which have rapidly been replaced with dog friendly training through positive reinforcement and games. These are much more palatable to both the dogs and the people involved and gets better results in the long run.

There is a very easy way to view dominance when referring to companion dogs and their people. Dominance, in biology, is the control of and access to resources. We humans control most of our dogs’ resources and control access to just about everything our dogs want. We determine when and where the dog eliminates, what resting surfaces he can use, when and what he eats and how he greets strangers. That makes us, by default, the dominant species.

We can decide how we use this status and don’t have to do anything extra to prove that we are, indeed, the dominant species in this relationship. We can choose to be kind, to train in a dog friendly way and be gentle & compassionate while setting the boundaries needed for our dogs to live with us in a human society.

And have you noticed, nobody talks about dominating cats?

Berkeley Humane's training philosophy and testimonials are on our website, as is a list of upcoming dog training classes.