Did you know that Pacific surfperch give birth to live young? I didn’t until I talked with Alistair Callaway. If SFACC ever decides to name a humane education czar, Alistair Callaway would make a great one. Alistair has been an Animal Care Attendant at the shelter since May of last year, and has a wealth of knowledge about caring for all kinds of critters, especially aquatic and exotics. Before coming to ACC, Alistair worked at Petco. on Sloat Blvd. for three years, and was instrumental in helping improve regional policy guidelines for the welfare of the animals at Petco. Committed to helping educate customers on animal care, Alistair became known by colleagues and repeat customers as something of an expert about the needs of the store’s critters. He spent extra time with potential customers, educating them about the fish, bird, or hamster they were interested in. “Sometimes when they learned how complex caring for a certain animal was, they changed their minds, but that’s ok and that’s better for the animal in the long run.”

Where did he get such a wealth of animal knowledge? For one thing, Alistair has a degree in zoology from SF State University, and has done extensive research on surfperch fish, working with biologists there, contributing to a body of data about a species of Dwarf Surfperch prevalent on the Pacific coast. Plus, he has extensive experience in maintaining his own salt water tank of finned BFFs, and is the proud guardian of Oliver, a 4-year-old Chinese Water Dragon, who he sometimes takes with him on excursions to Golden Gate Park (on leash of course). “These reptiles are arboreal–in their native habitat they live in trees and when we go to the park, Oliver looks for a tree to climb, and he’ll perch up there while I hang out and read.” Alistair loves rats too, and had three until recently–beloved Dagon and Bjorn have passed on but Loki is 3, which is like 90-ish, for a rat.

Alistair is passionate about the welfare of SFACC’s animals and the shelter’s mission statement–as many of us are. “The open-admission policy resonates heavily with me and is one of the reasons I wanted to work here. Seeing all kinds of animals come in–some in pretty bad shape–and then watching them evolve and blossom, and then go to new homes or other rescue or rehab organizations is gratifying.” …Every animal that comes to SFACC is given a second chance, and Alistair is often the one to personally do that–he has fostered baby rats and taken home an elderly hamster named Prudence for hospice. After chatting with Alistair, I feel fortunate, on behalf of the critters, that he left his native Southern California and adopted SF as his new home. Welcome Alistair!

Relaxing with Oliver, the Chinese Water Dragon
Alistair Callaway, Animal Care Attendant