A fire that broke out shortly after 1 a.m. last night gutted the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society in West Berkeley and killed a number of cats.

According to reports, at least a dozen cats were killed, but many more cats and dogs were rescued by volunteers. The entire cat sheltering area at the 9th Street site was destroyed as well as laundry and offices. The society is currently without water, electricity and phones.

The society is asking for “foster” families for the animals. If you can help, email the society.

Update 9:25 a.m. Berkeleyside reader TN reports in the comments below on the fire:

I just walked over to the Humane Society. It does not look heavily damaged, though of course I could only observe from the sidewalk. There doesn’t seem to be major structural issues. I’m not an expert but it doesn’t look like anything close to a total loss.

I was told by the staff standing outside that they are looking for foster homes for both cats and dogs immediately. Cat fosterers are needed more than dogs. I’m signed up and friends of ours called to say that they’d sponsor (pay for expenses) for our fostering. If you want to foster, go down to 9th Street and Carlton and sign up.

Update 10:35 The feline death toll in this morning’s fire at the Humane Society might have been much worse except for the actions of Baby, a pit bull-boxer who lived above the shelter.

Johanna White was asleep in her apartment and didn’t wake up when her smoke detectors went off. She was roused from bed when Baby started to bark. White then alerted the fire department.

Smoke and flames killed twelve cats in the shelter, but all the dogs were able to escape unharmed, according to shelter employee Katherine O’Donnell. The shelter is looking for donations to cover the repair of the building and people to foster the surviving animals. Please send an email to foster@berkeleyhumane.org. or go to http://www.berkeleyhumane.org.

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...