Every day we are honored to have one of the country’s most credentialed veterinary professionals on our staff at the San Francisco SPCA. Dr. Jeannine Berger, DVM, DACVB, DACAW, CAWA, is the Senior Vice President of Rescue and Welfare and she has overseen all aspects of our shelter-related programs for over ten years. This includes intake, housing, shelter medicine, behavior, and adoptions. She is board-certified in Veterinary Behavior and Animal Welfare. Dr. Berger is one of only eight such doctors in the United States, and the only one working at an animal shelter.
When the California wildfires struck in August, Dr. Berger was caught inside the fire lines. She rushed immediately to the forefront of the fire-ravaged area, providing much-needed support to emergency teams and searching for animals in desperate need.
As a resident personally impacted by the fires, Dr. Berger shared her water and food resources with neighbors, virtually all of whom had no access to either. “No one had power and with that, not many had water,” she said. “Many houses were gone and it took days for people to be allowed back in. I was fortunate enough to be there and was able to go from place to place to feed and water animals in the area. I had plenty of food in my barn for all sorts of critters – sheep, chickens, pigs, cats, horses.”
Since she lived in the fire-impacted area, Dr. Berger was the only veterinarian behind the checkpoints. She quickly became a vital resource to the animal-relief efforts onsite. A lot of farm animals were affected and included llamas, sheep, and horses, and luckily, Dr. Berger’s varied expertise proved to be an invaluable asset during the crisis. “I am a trained DVM for many species and was an associate veterinarian in large-animal field service when I was at University of California, Davis,” she said. “I have the skills and experience to assess the medical needs and welfare of all types of animals.” This meant that she could help decide the best course of action for impacted animals, such as who could be transported for care and where they would go to receive it.
“There were three llamas in distress from the fire and the smoke,” she explained. “We were able to connect their owner with UC Davis where the llamas were transported for further care.”
Fortunately, despite the chaos, many people were able to evacuate with their animals. “A lot of families had their dogs with them,” Dr. Berger said. “And I knew it would be important to share information on how to safely keep pets with their people during this emergency.” Knowing that these types of crises can separate people from their pets, she immediately connected with SF SPCA colleague Dr. Wailani Sung, DVM, PhD, DACVB, who promptly released a Fire Response Message in a public email and on the SF SPCA website with recommendations for those temporarily living with pets in hotels or with friends.
As animal shelters near the California fire frontlines have become crowded with rescued animals and those displaced by the fires, the SF SPCA has transferred adoptable animals out of impacted shelters to our shelter.
We will continue to support our partners by doing all we can to provide resources to shelters and animals in need. It is because of the incredible knowledge, generosity, and experience of Dr. Berger and our other veterinarians that we can step up to respond. We applaud her valiant support during this emergency and are forever grateful for all that she does for our organization, our partner shelters, and the California animal community.
Please donate today to continue to make our efforts to support people and animals impacted by the fires.