Something VERY exciting has been going on in Berkeley in recent months. It's so exciting that we've been afraid to talk for fear of jinxing it. That is, empty kennels ... lots and lots of empty kennels in the city shelter.
Ten years ago, the 60 runs at open-admission Berkeley Animal Care Services were depressingly full, sometimes doubled up, and staff was forced to euthanize for space...up to 600 dogs a year. But in 2007, the number of dog euthanasias was down 90%, with only 50 dogs put to sleep. Check it: BACS Stats
Our girl Sally was set to be euthanized in BACS due to lack of space, way back when. You-know-who actually inspired us to start BAD RAP.
Since last summer, the number of dogs coming in to BACS has dropped so much that almost one half of the runs are now consistently EMPTY. Last week, an all time low with 34 empty runs. It's almost too quiet in there! What's going on? We have to credit a combination of efforts: Successful Marketing of Shelter Dogs, Owner Education including Free Training, Volunteerism, Rescue and Voluntary Spay/Neuter Programs.
In short: The shelter staff and the local community kicked ass to make some changes.
We're really proud to be part of the these changes. Every week, dog owners pour into our Berkeley classes to learn how to be good stewards for their dogs and volunteers train unowned shelter dogs (pit bulls and their mixes are the most over-represented breed in BACS). It's extremely gratifying to see dogs that were once ill-mannered and a wee bit out of control turn into well behaved canine good citizens thanks to the help of the diehards who keep trucking in every week, some from over an hour away. It gets even better when the shelter dogs' new adopters show up to learn the drill.
This month, 25 new dog owners started BR's Beginning Class, and our Drop In class is at an all time high with up to 25 volunteer handlers and new adopters working the dogs together. (Over 400 people are on our waiting list trying to get in - EEK!) To keep up with the demand, we've called in reinforcements, and now the talented Linda Chwistek and Donyale Hoye (Photo) are giving up even more of their Saturdays to help train the new influx of people. It's going to be a busy summer!
So, there. It's out: Voluntary spay/neuter works, and Community Partnerships will save the world. At least, that's the plan. Here's more info: Cooperation & Compassion, Not Compulsion.
Congrats to Kate O'Connor and the staff at Berkeley Animal Care Services. With unwavering tenacity - not to mention a lot of class - you've shown everyone how to make it work. Well done.