Hook and Ladder, above, are two of the lucky kittens now off the streets.
On April 29 Alameda County lifted its ban on evictions, and last week the city of Oakland followed suit (wp.me/p7ShJJ-FYwj). The result: a tsunami of dogs and cats being turned in to local animal shelters by frightened owners worried about getting kicked out and not being able to find new landlords who will let them keep their pets.
“We are at full capacity and beyond,” says Ann Dunn, the director of Oakland Animal Services (aka the city’s animal shelter). “We’ve taken in 779 more dogs and cats than last year at this time. People are struggling, and as a result their animals are too. It’s heartbreaking.”
It’s the same story in Berkeley.
“Animals are staying longer, waiting for adoption,” says Jeffrey Zerwekh, the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society’s executive director. “Even puppies, who used to fly out the door.”
The bottleneck extends to all the other animals still out there in desperate need of homes, especially in this deadly hot weather, but there’s no room for them in the shelters.
“People assume that once they turn in their pet in, it will be safe and they don’t have to worry anymore,” says Zerwekh. “But a shelter is only temporary housing. Once we find a new home for the animal, we can go out and rescue another one.”
The timing couldn’t be worse either because we’re also in the middle of kitten season, which means the overpopulation crisis is only going to get worse. Two of the lucky animals now off the streets are a pair of tiny kittens, a boy and girl, born to a feral mom in the backyard of a retired Alameda firefighter.
They were rescued by Gail Churchill, a volunteer with Island Cat Resources and Adoptions (Island Cat, for short), a rescue group that operates in Alameda and Oakland. She worked with the firefighter to humanely trap the mama kitty and her babies, and all three of them were whisked off to a local vet for spay/neuter surgery, a thorough medical/dental checkup and vaccinations.
Because the kittens’ mother is too old to be socialized she was returned to the backyard where she was found — after all, she chose that spot because it felt safe — where she will be fed and watched over for the rest of her life by the firefighter and his wife, who gave her a heated bed to sleep in on their covered back porch as a welcome present.
The little ones are definitely young enough to be socialized, though, so they’re learning the ins and outs of indoor living in their foster home, which happens to be Churchill’s house. Considering where they were found, it’s no surprise that they’ve been named Hook and Ladder (the girl and boy respectively). But if the permanent owner wants to change those names, that won’t be a problem.
I love happy endings like this, but sadly, there are still thousands of other sweet animals inside and outside of shelters that desperately need our help. The experts tell us the average life expectancy for a homeless animal is about two years, max.
Speaking as someone who’s been feeding homeless cats for the last five years, I can testify from personal experience that this figure is overly optimistic. We’re talking about a life-or-death situation, with a lot of suffering thrown in. So I’m appealing to you, my dear readers, for help. If you ever wanted to adopt a really nice dog or cat — or better yet two of them so they can keep each other company — now’s the time. Below is a list of area animal shelters and rescue organizations.
- Oakland Animal Services, at 1101 29th Ave., is open for adoptions from noon to 3 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. You can see pictures of the animals online at oaklandanimalservices.org.
- The East Bay SPCA, Oakland, at 8323 Baldwin St., is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. For more information, visit eastbayspca.org.
- Cat Town in Oakland is at 2869 Broadway and is open Fridays through Sundays from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. You can’t drop in unannounced, but you can book a visit on its website, cattownoakland.org.
- Island Cat doesn’t have a shelter, as all their kitties are in foster homes instead, but you can check them out by visiting icraeastbay.org/adopt online.
- The Alameda Animal Shelter at 1590 Fortmann Way is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. You can look at pictures at alamedaanimalshelter.org.
- The the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society, at 2700 Ninth St. in Berkeley, is open for walk-in adoptions from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. To view their animals, visit berkeleyhumane.org.
- The city of Berkeley’s Animal Care Services agency at 1 Bolivar Drive is open Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesdays from from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Find out more at berkeleyca.gov/community-recreation/animal-care-services.
- The Valley Humane Society in Pleasanton is at 3670 Nevada St. and is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit valleyhumane.org to see photos.
Give one (or more) of these animals a home, and they’ll fill it with unconditional love.
Martin Snapp can be reached at email@example.com.