HAYWARD — A plane carrying very special passengers landed at Hayward Executive Airport Friday night. On board were 40 cats and dogs from the Maui Humane Society.
These animals were already in shelters or in foster homes on the island at the time of the disaster.
“When the fire happened, we knew we needed to do something. Because all the shelters are full, it was going to be a bigger project than one organization,” said Jeffrey Zerwekh, executive director of Berkeley Humane.
Zerwekh helped organize a coalition of six local animal welfare groups including the East Bay SPCA and Marin Humane to help transport shelter animals to find new homes in the Bay Area. They partnered with Greater Good Charities to arrange the flight. The flight was managed by Ameriflight, a national cargo airline.
Although Bay Area shelters are full, Zerwekh says that, collectively, they can absorb the extra animals to create room for an influx of injured or displaced animals on the island.
“By moving those animals here, that gives the animal welfare teams in Maui the opportunity to take a breath, regroup and start building the longterm recovery programs that people are going to need their in order to take care of their pets,” he said.
Steve Ferguson, operations director with Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter, said they are full.
“Intakes are up but adoptions are down so the length of stay for animals is increasing, unfortunately. So our current situation is we’ve got a handful of kennels available that are unoccupied,” Ferguson said. “We rely heavily on our foster community to get them out of the shelter and then into homes until we can get them adopted and even that is becoming stretched.”
Berkeley Humane said next weekend it will be hosting the single largest adoption event in the state called Bark (& Meow) Around the Block where animals from Hawaii will be up for adoption and most fees will be waived.
“It makes me feel very proud we don’t get into animal welfare other than to save as many animals as we can,” Ferguson added.
Most shelters have online applications for adoption.
“This is really important work that we do. This also gives us an opportunity as a coalition to come together, so that, if there are more disasters in the area in the future, we are better prepared to support each other,” Zerwekh said.