Ten years ago the people of Berkeley approved a bond measure to fund a new city animal shelter to replace the old, well-loved but well-worn facility that was state-of-the-art when it was built in the 1950s but is sadly out of date now.
It's taken another decade of jumping though bureaucratic hoops, but the new shelter will finally open next month.
Unfortunately, bond measures pay only for the bricks and mortar, not for what goes on inside the building. And this bond measure was no exception.
Which means Berkeley Animal Care Services, the agency that runs the shelter, still has to find the rest of the money on its own. The most glaring need is for an on-site clinic to treat the animals in the shelter, including basics like vaccinations, spay/neuter surgeries and emergency medial care. Currently, the shelter is forced to outsource these functions to local veterinarians.
It's hard to imagine a more expensive, less efficient way of doing things. The cats and dogs have to be transported to and from the vet's office, which not only eats up staff time, it's the four-footed equivalent of sending people to the emergency room for routine medical needs.
Not to mention the war and tear on the poor animals themselves, who ought to be getting total rest.
Currently, one out of every five pets in the shelter needs such medical care. And some require much more, such as Daphne, a pit bull puppy who was brought in a few months ago with her ears cut off and 38 pellets from a pellet gun under her skin.
Or Godiva, another pit bull who was brought in with a chain around her neck that became tighter and tighter as she grew up, to the point where her skin had literally grown over it, requiring surgery to cut it out. Her suffering must have been unimaginable.
Their treatment didn't come cheap, but that's what an animal shelter is there for, and why an in-house clinic is so crucial.
Currently, Berkeley Animal Care Services – which is responsible for taking care of all the lost, abused, stray or unwanted animals in Berkeley, Albany, Piedmont and Emeryville – provides a safe haven for more than 1,500 dogs and cats every year.
But BACS is much more than just another city shelter. In addition to its caring, committed and knowledgeable staff, more than 600 volunteers give more than 400 hours of their time every week to support programs such as pit bull placement, feral cat management and community services.
Last year, some of these volunteers formed a non-profit group called Friends of Berkeley Animal Care Services to support the shelter and raise the money to equip that on-site clinic.
Their first big fund-raiser will be a gala at the Brower Center on Oct. 18 called Power to the Paws, featuring gourmet food and wine (this is Berkeley, after all), live entertainment and an auction including tickets to Berkeley Rep and your own private concert by a trio of musicians from the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra.
And if you can't attend but would still like to help, you can make a tax-deductible donation online at friendsofbacs.org or by sending a check to Friends of BACS, c/o DeAnna Dalton, 1244 Curtis Street, Berkeley CA 94706.
Tell 'em Daphne and Godiva sent you.