Animals Rescued From Oakland Nature Center Recovering, Put Up For Adoption

Some of the rescue animals that had to be rescued from alleged mistreatment at a popular Oakland nature center were put up for adoption Wednesday at a pet store in El Cerrito.

Two guinea pigs and one mouse were recovering at RabbitEARS Pet Supply, and workers there said they're doing a lot better compared to when they first arrived. A guinea pig now named Dumpling was one of the animals getting care at RabbitEARS.

"They had bald spots and bigger wounds," one volunteer said.

Some of the reptiles rescued were in the care of a veterinarian.

"Reptiles take a long time for their condition to deteriorate, so we can determine whether this was a long-term issue or short-term issue," Animal Services Director Rebecca Katz said.

Volunteers stepped in to take care of the animals from the Rotary Nature Center about a month ago after they recieved tips about abuse. The center on Lake Merritt is now closed, and Animal Services is investigating a former supervisor who was responsible for the animals' care.

Stephanie Benavides, who is homeless, faces allegations of starving the animals and having them live in their own feces. Benavides said Tuesday she worked at the nature center for 40 years and denied any wrongdoing.

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Meanwhile, regular visitors to the center said they hope it will be cleaned up and reopen and receive more funding to help the animals.

"I know plenty of people who love animals that would love to show these animals some care and attention," art teacher Amaranta Colindres said. "I would love to see this place stick around because it reminds me of my childhood." 

Colindres added that she hopes the summer camp at the center will remain intact and intends to offer to paint a mural for the center.

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