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Wednesday August 29, 2001

Setting the record straight on Open Paw 



It was with some irritation that I read your reporter’s lead in to my comment about the Open Paw program in the Berkeley Daily Planet (8/27). I did not say that I had serious concerns about the training techniques of Open Paw. What I said was that I was concerned that their approach excludes any other volunteering opportunities (with dogs) at the Berkeley Animal Shelter. That it was ‘their way or no way.’ 

Open Paw is a great concept - but it does not run the volunteer program at the Berkeley Animal Shelter, and its attempts to tell Director Kate O’ Connor and Volunteer Co-ordinator Amelia Funghi how to do their jobs is what irks many people. 

That the Berkeley Humane Society fully endorses Open Paw is no surprise – their volunteer program has been ineffective for years and given the condition of its facility, and the current state of its hospital – closed – it must be nice to have something to feel good about. 

Open Paw is a fantastic piece in an overall approach to many issues facing Berkeley’s municipal animal shelter including: 

• How to cope with a dog population which is usually 60 -70 percent pitbull or pitbull mix. The organization Bad Rap has begun a program at the Berkeley Shelter, training volunteers how to work with and assess which pitbulls are adoptable and which may have to be euthanised. 

• How to co-ordinate a foster program whereby dogs, pups and underage kittens with minor health or behaviour problems can go into temporary homes to bring them to full health prior to adoption. 

• How to breathe new life into a shelter which until recently was run by the Police Department with enforcement, not adoption as its primary focus. 

• How to build a cohesive program of volunteer involvement for animals other than dogs (far more cats than dogs are killed in municipal shelters). 

• How to persuade the public and politicians alike that Berkeley requires a new facility where the drains aren’t blocked by dog excrement, where bird droppings don’t create a health hazard to employees, where the building environment encourages adoptions and where the kennels are designed so that dogs are less likely to get into arguments with their neighbors. 

Wouldn’t it be great if Berkeley Humane would enter into a fully co-operative agreement with the Berkeley Shelter along the lines of the SF SPCA and SF animal control? Under new director Lisa Fine, hopefully this will happen. 

The possibilities at the Humane are limitless – their hospital could become the city vet, offering low cost spay/neuter to all needy citizens, entering into a contract with the city to provide medical care for shelter animals (currently shelter animals are spayed and neutered at low cost vets in Contra Costa county), and they could offer reduced rates for nonprofit animal organizations. At the moment our shelter does not even have the capability of providing rabies vaccines for dogs. 

Open Paw, whether it likes it or not, is caught up in the politics of the Berkeley Humane Society and the problems this venerable institution faces as it attempts to reform itself. 

At the Berkeley Animal Shelter the euthanasia rate has plummeted in recent months because of increased volunteer participation, ‘rescue’ agreements with organizations like Oakland SPCA, Pets In Need, Bad Rap, and Home At Last Rescue and because of director O’ Connor’s resistance to kill except where necessary. 

For Open Paw’s supporters to imply that the Berkeley Shelter is part of a ‘resistance to change’ is self serving and inaccurate. 


Jill Posener 

Paws For Thought 



Landmark Gaia right now 



I am amused by the controversy over the Gaia Building. It is easily the most attractive building in the neighborhood at this point, drawing admiring glances from all who pass by.  

Clearly, in a few years everyone will be proud that this building will help define downtown Berkeley, so why not just declare it a landmark now? Why wait until it is endangered?  

And that way the preservationists could take a positive position for once, and applaud a thoughtful addition to the urban landscape, instead of quibbling.  


Sarah Stadler 




Accolades for Patrick Kennedy 



I read Michael Katz’s letter regarding the Gaia building and I just had to reply. I believe that we owe a debt of gratitude to Patrick Kennedy and his crew for the construction of this magnificent building.  

The beauty of this building is that it is not just wonderful to look at, but it is constructed in a thoughtful and deliberate manner.  

It has a steel beam foundation that really should be a requirement for any new building in this earthquake area.  

The management has provided 3 electric cars for the use of the tenants that live there, thus reducing the need for people to own and use traditional vehicles. They have installed stacked garages and have utilized the street level space for a café and theater.  

Furthermore, Mr. Kennedy has doubled the required occupancy of low income, disabled or elderly tenants to 20 percent. I personally know of his offer to help seniors who had faced evictions by assuring them of a place in the Gaia building and of his help to those who found themselves in distressing circumstances. Where would Mr. Katz place these people who were without homes? 

The Gaia building, in my eyes, is a magnificent building that combines beauty, quality, innovation, and care.  

I am proud to see it in the center of Berkeley and I hope it will act as a beacon to other builders to rise to such quality. 


Marcia Poole 




Tribune editorial appealed to very worst in us 




The Berkeley Daily Planet received this letter addressed to the editor of the Oakland Tribune. 

The Tribune Editorial attacking Berkeley City Councilman Mr. Kriss Worthington appalls me, and the timing of the attack appalls me. The editorial writer may be frightened of someone or something, but it couldn’t be Kriss or Kriss’ work in Berkeley. If the Editorial writer ever met or worked with Kriss, I doubt if the harsh words could have issued. 

This brand of journalism that attempts to destroy public figures by appealing to our worst emotions rather than the record and reality, strikes me as essentially foreign to what this country is all about, and strikes me as despicable. 


Terry Cochrell