San Diego Humane Society and SPCA

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you take in any type of animal?

The San Diego Humane Society only accepts companion animals that are kept as pets, including cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, reptiles, and birds. We take in livestock when necessary as part of our Humane Law activities. We are not able to accept wildlife. If you need help with wildlife, please contact

Do you have exotic animals/horses/etc. for adoption?

We do sometimes have unusual pets, such as bearded dragons, chinchillas, and horses available for adoption, but we do not guarantee that they will be available every day. See all adoptable animals >

How are you affiliated with Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)?

We are not. The San Diego Humane Society and SPCA is an independent 501(c)(3) organization and is not affiliated with any other local, state, or national organization such as the Humane Society of the United States in Washington or the ASPCA in New York. The San Diego Humane Society and SPCA is dependent solely on financial support from our community and donors.

How long before the animals in your care are euthanized?

The San Diego Humane Society does not use length of stay at the shelter as a criterion for euthanasia. Once an animal becomes available for adoption, it will remain available for as long as is necessary to find a home. Euthanasia is only performed when medically or behaviorally necessary. For more information, see our complete Euthanasia Policy.

How many animals does the Humane Society care for?

At our various public and private locations, we typically have approximately 2,000 animals in our care daily. This includes animals available for adoption, in foster homes, under veterinarian care, in protective custody, on stray hold, and in our behavior center.

If I relinquish a pet, why won't you guarantee it will stay at SDHS?

As part of our Joint Intake Policy, the San Diego Humane Society may work jointly with the Department of Animal Services. The pet may be admitted to either the San Diego Humane Society or the Department of Animal Services' central shelter, depending on available animal housing resources.

The San Diego Humane Society is one of eight county shelters that make up the San Diego Animal Welfare Coalition. The Coalition was formed to provide a safety net for the county's shelters; when one shelter does not feel they have the resources to care for a certain animal at that time, they can transfer the animal to another coalition shelter that may be better prepared to meet the animal's needs. Review our Joint Intake Policy for more information.

I relinquished an animal to the San Diego Humane Society yesterday. Why isn't it available for adoption yet?

Once an animal is relinquished to the San Diego Humane Society, it undergoes a thorough medical examination and behavior assessment. This process can take several days and includes spaying or neutering, vaccinating, micro-chipping, examination for and treatment of medical conditions, dental procedures, x-rays, blood tests, and even surgery when necessary.

After an animal has recovered from treatment, it is evaluated for personality and to determine its ideal environment. Since a shelter environment can be a stressful experience for any animal, each one is allowed a few days to acclimate to its new environment before being behaviorally assessed. This ensures that our animal care staff is able to see the animal's true disposition.

Is there a waiting list for a particular breed?

There is no waiting list. The dogs we have available for adoption change daily. Check the Available Pets page to see what we currently have.

What is the adoption process?

Read all about it on our adoption process page.

What is the difference between a Humane Society and a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA)?

While the terms themselves are sometimes used interchangeably, "SPCA" usually designates an organization that is actively involved in prevention of cruelty to animals through education and/or cruelty investigations.

A "Humane Society" generally refers to an organization that engages in on-site sheltering of animals.

Because the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA's mission, programs, and services include animal cruelty investigations, sheltering, adoptions, education, and more, both terms describe our organization.

What is the difference between the San Diego Humane Society and the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services?

The San Diego Campus for Animal Care on Gaines Street highlights a vital public-private partnership between the private, non-profit San Diego Humane Society and SPCA and the publicly funded County of San Diego Department of Animal Services. The two agencies work cooperatively to save the life of every adoptable animal in San Diego County but remain independent.

Where are your available pets?

Animals in our care are available for adoption at more then 10 locations throughout San Diego County. See all locations and hours >

A little-known fact: we often have several Hidden Gems, pets available for adoption but not in public view.

We also bring available animals to community events. To find out when we'll be in a neighborhood near you, see our Mobile Adoptions Calendar.

Where do I go to get my dog licensed/rabies shots/vaccines?

For residents of Oceanside and Vista, dog licenses and vaccinations can be obtained through our Oceanside Campus. For residents of Escondido, San Marcos or Poway, dog licenses and vaccinations can be obtained through our Escondido Campus.

For residents of other cities, dog licenses can be obtained by contacting the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services at 619.236.4250. The Department of Animal Services also sponsors a "One-Stop Licensing Program," where vaccinations can be obtained on the spot. More information can be found at

Rabies and other vaccines can be obtained at your local veterinarian's office or at vaccination clinics.

Where do your animals come from?

Many of the animals at SDHS are brought in by their owners, some are stray / found animals, and some come to us from other shelters through our transfer program.

The San Diego Humane Society regularly visits shelters, both in and outside of San Diego County, to take in animals and help ease the overcrowded conditions that many shelters face. This helps ensure no healthy animal will have to be euthanized due to lack of space.

Why do so many of your dogs have age recommendations?

Age recommendations are assigned to certain dogs to help protect the safety of both the dog and the family that may adopt it. Dogs do not communicate in the same ways as humans do - they communicate through very subtle body language. While an adult may realize that a dog's rigid posture may mean "I don't want to share my toy with you," a young child may not understand this cue. Additionally, a dog with a high energy level could inadvertently knock over a young child during play.

Our Animal Care and Behavior and Training staff have closely examined the personalities of every dog, and any age recommendations assigned are meant as a guideline to help adopters determine which pet will best match the needs of their household.

Why put so many resources into animal welfare?

With so many worthy causes in need of support and attention today, this is a question we welcome.

The link between people who harm animals and people who commit violent acts against other people is well documented, and history is full of high-profile examples. You don't have to be an animal lover to be concerned about people's treatment of animals.

The San Diego Humane Society not only benefits animals but also our community by fostering stronger bonds between people and animals, providing educational opportunities, and promoting humane treatment of all animals.

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