In 2002, the voters decided that Berkeley should build a new animal shelter to replace the 1950’s cinderblock shelter on 2nd Street. The bond measure, a property tax, passed with the required 2/3 majority – the only tax measure to pass in the East Bay in that election.
In the years since then there have been disappointments as various sites were proposed and failed to work out. Finally, in 2008 – a site at the northern tip of Aquatic Park was bought and we are now, at this point, in design for our new animal shelter.
It has been a long time coming!
The first printed mention of an animal shelter was in a 1906 book which wrote about the dreadful conditions of the animal pound, where dogs, goats, cattle and other animals were impounded together in an open pen ‘located on the water’s edge at the foot of University Avenue and so close to the water that at high tide the pen is underwater‘. The conditions were described as a ‘disgrace to civilized society‘ and the sound of dogs yelping as they were being clubbed to death was the impetus for the first attempts at humane treatment for animals in Berkeley.
In 1957 the current shelter was built, virtually on the same site as the open pen. Between then and the late 1990’s the department was run by one reluctant department after another – Public Works, Fire, and then Police. Spotty record-keeping started in the late 1980’s but until the late 1990’s there were few records available for public scrutiny.
1988 Our animal shelter euthanised 75% of all cats and dogs.
1996 Local Councilmember Dona Spring calls publicly for a new shelter building.
1998 Paws For Thought – a group of local animal welfare activists – is founded and demands complete reform at Berkeley Animal Shelter. We mounted a media and political campaign to make City Council aware of the shocking conditions. Pressure from community members had an immediate impact on euthanasia rates –yet 65% were still destroyed. We requested a Task Force be set up.
1999 Mayor Shirley Dean convened a Mayoral Task Force to examine conditions at the animal shelter. Council members Dona Spring and Betty Olds and community advocates are part of the Task Force.
2000 The Task Force released a report calling for profound policy changes at the Berkeley Animal Shelter including removing the Shelter from under the control of the Police Department, the creation of a volunteer program, employment of a volunteer coordinator and city support for a local animal rescue group Home At Last. PFT member Jill Posener demanded that the city replace the dilapidated and unsafe shelter on 2nd Street. Activists demand that no animal is killed for space and that every animal be assessed thoroughly for medical and behaviour rehabilitation before euthanasia is considered as an option.
2000 California passed new state law (the Hayden Bill) which mandated better conditions and longer hold periods for stray animals, medical care and cooperation with animal rescue groups.
2001 SNYP (Spay/Neuter Your Pets) was established as a non profit low cost fix program. The city took over the program in 2002 and has funded it ever since. Over 6000 animals have been spayed and neutered under the program.
2002 Measure I passes and a joint Humane Commission/Council sub committee is established by Council to search for a site – leading to six frustrating years of trying to find an appropriate site. Jill Posener is Chair, and Linda McCormick, Betsy Raymond, Dona Spring and Betty Olds were committee members
2008 After 8 years of civilian control under the City Managers office and the direct supervision of Kate O’ Connor, and with greater involvement of the community, the Berkeley City Animal Shelter becomes the municipal shelter with the lowest euthansia rate in California – under 15%
2008 A site is located at 1 Bolivar Drive. We choose local firm BurksToma and their animal shelter designers ARQ after an exhaustive search.
2009 Site and design preparation!