Berkeley Humane Staff Volunteer at Oakland Animal Services

The animals at Berkeley Humane get great care, but we often have very little information about their lives before they arrive here. Since most of our animals come from public shelters, we decided to send a few of our staff out to spend some time with one of our most important shelter partners, Oakland Animal Services (OAS).

Over the past few weeks we sent Alina, Jesse, and Ian—three of our Adoption Animal Care Specialists—to spend a few days each learning the ins-and-outs of OAS. They gained insight into the journey that some animals go through before they are transported to Berkley Humane.

The Berkeley Humane Adoption Animal Care Specialists who volunteered at
Oakland Animal Services: Ian, Jessie, and Alina.

OAS is one of the largest open admission municipal shelters in the Bay Area, taking in more than 5,700 animals a year. They are responsible for animal control and enforcement as well as taking in every stray or surrendered animal that comes their way including dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, and even pigeons! They don’t get to choose who comes into their shelter, a fact not lost on Jesse. “Despite the huge volume of animals under their care, a core tenet of OAS is always to be kind to both the animals and the people who come into the building, because it is the best way to help reduce the level of shared stress,” explained Jesse.

“I’m so glad to learn that this was one of Jesse’s takeaways from the experience,” said Jeffrey Zerwekh, Executive Director at Berkeley Humane. “It demonstrates our belief that in order to be successful in animal welfare we also have to take care of people.”

Many large dogs participate in playgroup.

After hours of cleaning and animal care, Ian, Jesse, and Alina also took turns at the front desk helping with customer service. They also managed to get outside and enjoy the fenced yard and play areas available for the dogs. Ian was impressed with the opportunities that dogs had to play with each other, and “what an easy and effective enrichment tool this can be.” He commented that he “look[s] forward to facilitating more playgroups for our own dogs.”

“I am really glad they learned so much while at OAS,” noted Rebecca Katz, OAS Director. “Berkeley Humane is a valued partner and we were thrilled to welcome Ian, Jesse, and Alina to learn more about the broader animal care industry and how OAS and Berkeley Humane work together to support homeless animals across the county.”

Alina noted, “what I will bring back to my work at Berkeley Humane is a renewed sense of appreciation for municipal shelters in general. They do so much to care for abandoned, stray, or surrendered animals, and place them into new homes.”

Pez is still looking for a home through Oakland Animal Services.

Berkeley Humane initiated this program because we thought it was a great opportunity to help the animals and hard-working crew at OAS. It also gave our adoption specialists experience at a larger shelter. It turned out to be a very successful initiative and the only one like it. In speaking with the other private and public shelters around California we have yet to find any others that support each other in this way.

Learn more about Berkeley Humane.

Learn more about Oakland Animal Services.

Foster to Family: An Alternative Path Home

Dogs and cats by nature are social animals that benefit from socialization, training, and ample attention. Often the animals that Berkeley Humane rescues are coming from stressful situations such as overcrowded, municipal shelter or disaster-affected areas. In order for these dogs and cats to decompress, develop, and then blossom, foster homes are often the answer.

Meet a Foster-to-Family Animal
To set up a time to meet Lilian, or if you have additional questions, please email

Berkeley Humane’s Foster to Family program gives homeless cats and dogs the opportunity to flourish in a home environment while searching for a loving adopter. Foster homes assist with finding these homeless animals loving, adoptive families while giving them a safe place to unwind and truly come out of their shells.

Lilian, one of our current Foster-to-Family animals who is looking for a loving home. She was rescued from a shelter impacted by the Carr fire in Northern California. Lilian was looking for a home before the fires began, and was accepted into Berkeley Humane’s program to help shelter resources be directed to evacuated and stray animals.

Why Adopt Through Foster to Family? 
There are many benefits of adopting a dog or a cat through Berkeley Humane’s Foster to Family program. We often know more about an animal's behavior in a home environment and can relay that information to a potential adopter. Foster homes offer homeless animals additional opportunities for socialization, training, and exploration of behaviors that would be more difficult in the shelter environment.

The Foster to Family program also offers more flexible hours. Berkeley Humane’s adoption center is open Fridays through Sundays, 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM, however a meet and greet with a Foster to Family animal can be arranged during the week, mornings, or evenings, depending on the volunteer’s availability. 

Most importantly, each adoption opens up space for a new animal in foster. Berkeley Humane partners with municipal shelters in the East Bay, Central Valley, and surrounding areas to save cats and dogs by alleviating overcrowding and taking animals in need of medical care. Foster families allow Berkeley Humane to expand our capacity beyond what our physical shelter at 2700 Ninth Street provides. Often, an animal in the shelter could go into a foster home the same day a foster animal is adopted! This also opens up a space in the shelter so more animals may be transported from public shelters.

Want to Become a Foster Volunteer?
As a volunteer foster, you’ll provide homeless animals with invaluable socialization opportunities. The better we know how a cat or dog acts in a home environment, the more success we have in placing them with compatible adopters! Giving these animals a friendly place to land temporarily also has many benefits for you.

Fostering is a great way to give back if you want a pet, but can’t make a 10 to 15 year commitment. You’ll gain animal handling skills, and Berkeley Humane provides fosters all the supplies, vet care, and support needed to be successful! All foster volunteers need to do is provide the love, attention, socialization, and transportation to and from the shelter for adoption weekends and vet appointments.

We have volunteer foster opportunities for cats and dogs that are short or long term. Currently, our biggest need is for foster families with experience with large dogs.

Learn more and sign up for a foster orientation at

Berkeley Humane Awarded LeAnn Rimes Grant from PEDIGREE Foundation

PEDIGREE Foundation, LeAnn Rimes, and Berkeley Humane are teaming up to save more puppies.

As part of a partnership between PEDIGREE Foundation and multi-platinum selling and two-time Grammy® Award winner LeAnn Rimes, Berkeley Humane has been awarding a $10,000 grant to save the lives of puppies at risk for canine parvovirus.

Berkeley Humane's Kristen Loomer, Director of Operations,
and Jeffrey Zerwekh,Executive Director, are
presented a check by LeAnn Rimes.
In California, parvovirus (parvo) has been steadily on the rise, and in the Central Valley specifically, it has escalated to become one of the highest areas of incidences for this life-threatening disease in the entire United States. This is due to a multitude of reasons. The climate, stability of the actual virus, and ease of transfer in overcrowded municipal shelters makes the region a haven for parvo. Subsequently, under-vaccinated puppies are at significant risk of death without medical intervention.

“Berkeley Humane is one of the oldest animal welfare organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area with a history of thinking outside the box to create solutions for dogs in need,” says Debra Fair, PEDIGREE Foundation Executive Director. “We like their innovative approach to adoption and believe the idea of moving at-risk puppies out of the shelter and into foster homes is a smart way to maximize resources while saving more lives.”

Berkeley Humane transports over 100 puppies annually from the Central Valley. To assure health and to eliminate the possibility of cross contamination, a strict 14 day quarantine is mandatory for all at-risk puppies. While this is an important protocol to monitor their health, the extended stay also takes up limited kennel space within the medical program.

“With the new investment provided by PEDIGREE Foundation we will begin housing these litters within our volunteer foster families’ homes and moving them out of the shelter,” states Jeffrey Zerwekh, Executive Director at Berkeley Humane. “The new program is called ‘Foster to Family’ and enables puppies, once medically cleared for adoption, to go directly into new, loving families without having to return to a shelter environment.”

Puppies in the Foster to Family program will be in safe home environments and will have more room to play and interact with dedicated caregivers. This program will shift more puppies out of kennels, creating more capacity within Berkeley Humane for animals in need of medical care from recent natural disasters. The grant funds will help care for the medical needs and overall care for the puppies, including spay/neuter surgeries, vaccinations, advanced medical care as needed, and the supplies necessary to support the volunteer foster families.

The Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society (Berkeley Humane) has origins dating back to 1895. Today, Berkeley Humane serves the people and animals of our community by providing life-saving programs for cats and dogs, cultivating compassion, and strengthening the human-animal bond. With the support of our community and a dedicated and talented team of volunteers and staff, Berkeley Humane transports animals from municipals shelters who are often in need of medical care, improved nutrition, enrichment, and lots of love. So far this year, Berkeley Humane found homes for over 1,000 dogs and cats and touched the lives of an 1,000 additional pets through our animal programs and services. Learn more at

Formed in 2008 by Mars Petcare, the makers of PEDIGREE® food for dogs, PEDIGREE Foundation is an independent 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to helping dogs in need find loving homes by supporting the good work of shelters and dog rescue organizations throughout the country. Through no fault of their own, more than four million dogs end up in shelters and rescue organizations every year, and nearly half of them never find a place to call home. For more information on how you can support the foundation visit

LeAnn Rimes is an internationally multi-platinum selling, acclaimed singer and ASCAP award-winning songwriter. The two-time Grammy® Award winner released her 16th studio RCA UK/Thirty Tigers album, Remnants in 2017. The album debuted at # 4 on Billboard’s Independent Album Chart and peaked at #3 on iTunes® overall charts in its first week and garnered two #1 Billboard Dance hits with “Long Live Love”, “LovE is LovE is LovE” and one Top 5 hit with “Love Line”. She recently revealed a new EP for her fans titled Re-Imagined that features five new versions of some of her record-breaking hits including an epic duet with the music icon Stevie Nicks. Additionally, Rimes will be lighting up the television screens this holiday season, starring and serving as an Executive Producer in a new original Hallmark Christmas movie, “It’s Christmas, Eve” set to premiere on November 10, 2018. As a companion piece to the film, on October 12, 2018 Thirty Tigers records will release It’s Christmas, Eve holiday soundtrack featuring Rimes that includes new original “soon-to-be classic” holiday songs that the songstress created specifically for the movie.

At the young age of 35, she has sold more than 44 million units globally, won two Grammy® Awards; 12 Billboard Music Awards; 2 World Music Awards; 3 Academy of Country Music Awards; one Country Music Association Award and one Dove Award. At 14, Rimes won "Best New Artist” making her the youngest recipient to take home a Grammy® Award. 

Last year, the powerhouse vocalist was honored with the Ally of Equality Award by the Human Rights Campaign for her 20 plus years of support of equal rights. This follows her 2009 honor when she was the recipient of the ACM Humanitarian Award. At 14, Rimes won "Best New Artist” making her the youngest recipient of a Grammy® Award. Out of the 42 singles she has released throughout her expansive career, LeAnn’s record "How Do I Live," continues to rank #4 on Billboard’s “Greatest of All Time: Hot 100 Songs,” and it holds the record for being the second longest charting song ever on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. 15 of her multi-genre singles are top-10 hits, including "Can't Fight the Moonlight" which went #1 in 11 countries. 

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.

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


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

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.