In the early morning hours of May 20, 2010, a fire broke out at the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society, killing fifteen cats and causing severe damage to the building at 2700 Ninth Street. Volunteers and staff of the nonprofit organization were devastated. "The recovery from the fire wasn't just recovery from the trauma — the loss of life and destruction of shelter space — but also people having to deal with the stress of 'All my equipment is gone, all my data on that equipment is gone,'" said Corinne Lamata, the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society's new executive director, who also worked there ten years ago.
Helping to ease the burden, members of the community donated nearly $700,000. But most of the that money was intended for the eventual reconstruction of the facility and set aside, Lamata said. In the meantime, the organization has been coping: It now runs its adoption center and clinic out of its veterinary hospital, holding adoptions in the reception area (the cat shelter area was totally destroyed, rendering the indoor dog kennel and upstairs administrative offices inaccessible). Cats are now cared for in foster care, while dogs are held in outdoor kennel space. But the nonprofit still needs help covering its operating expenses, Lamata said, which is why Bay to Barkers is so important.
Held this year on Sunday, July 29, at the north parking lot of Golden Gate Fields (1100 Eastshore Frontage Rd., Berkeley), the event is not only the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society's major fundraiser for the year, but also a chance to bring together members of the community. "The whole event is really like a big pet festival," Lamata said. It includes a one-mile group dog-walk along the waterfront, vendor booths offering everything from doggy bakeries to doggy daycare, pet-friendly games and contests, "spa time" for canines and their humans, and craft activities for kids — and dogs. (Last year's event featured doggy painting, in which dogs stepped into dog-safe paints and then walked onto paper.)
The goal for the fundraiser is $45,000; as of press time, Lamata said a little under $15,000 had come in. Participants are encouraged to create their own fundraising pages on the nonprofit's website, with top fundraisers earning prizes like having their dog featured on a poster displayed at Pet Food Express. The money raised will go primarily toward everyday costs like food and medical expenses. As for rebuilding the facility, that's going to take a lot more money. Lamata said the organization needs to raise a total of $3.5 million to pay for the rebuild, which will include a "modern and spacious environment," with cage-less dog and cat areas. The reason it's taken so long, she said, mostly has to do with complications with their insurance. At this point, they're looking to reopen in spring 2015.
It's been a long, hard road since the fire, but Lamata said the community's help and understanding has been and continues to be indispensible. "Every dollar is important," she said. Noon-4 p.m.; $25 for pre-registration, $30 at the event. 510-845-7735 or BerkeleyHumane.org