San Diego Humane Society and SPCA

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Frequently Asked Questions


On any given day, how many animals does the Humane Society care for?
At our various public and private locations, the Humane Society typically has just over 1,000 animals in its 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.  

What is the difference between the San Diego Humane Society and the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services?
The foundation of the San Diego Campus for Animal Care on Gaines Street in San Diego lies in a vital public-private partnership between the private, nonprofit San Diego Humane Society and SPCA and the publicly funded County of San Diego Department of Animal Services.

Together, the two agencies work cooperatively to save the life of every adoptable animal in San Diego County.  Both organizations remain independent and continue to serve their own roles in the community and benefit thousands of animals and people in San Diego County.

Why put so many resources into animal welfare?
With so many great causes that need financial support and attention today, this is a question we value and welcome. The answer lies in the roles animals play in our lives and the lessons we learn through our treatment of animals.

The link between people who harm animals and people who commit violent acts against 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 the treatment of animals. 

Quite simply, the San Diego Humane Society not only benefits animals but also benefits people and our community as a whole by fostering stronger bonds between people and animals and increasing educational opportunities for generations to come.

I relinquished an animal to the San Diego Humane Society yesterday.  Why isn’t that animal available for adoption yet?
Once an animal is relinquished to the San Diego Humane Society, it undergoes a thorough medical examination and behavior assessment process that can take several days.  Animals are spayed or neutered, vaccinated, micro-chipped, examined and treated for any medical conditions; this may entail dental procedures, x-rays, blood tests, and even surgery for certain conditions. 

After a dog or cat is medically sound and has recovered from any special treatments, it goes through a behavior assessment process to evaluate its personality and to determine the best home environment for that pet.  Members of our animal care staff are trained to perform behavioral assessments, which involves both handling animals and recording observations. The individuals who handle these evaluations are trained professionals who are able to implement this evaluation properly and read the subtle nuances of pets’ body language. 

Since a shelter environment can be a stressful experience for any pet, each pet 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 more of the pet’s “true” nature.  While the San Diego Humane Society seeks to find homes for as many adoptable pets as possible, we know that rushing the process is not in the best interest of the pet.

Do you accept any type of animal?
The San Diego Humane Society accepts only companion animals that are kept as pets.  This may include cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, reptiles, or birds.  We may 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 visit Project Wildlife's website.  


Do you have exotic animals/horses/etc for adoption?
We do sometimes have unusual pets, such as bearded dragons, chinchillas or horses available for adoption, but we cannot guarantee that these pets will be available every day.  The pets that are available for adoption change from day to day, so please call the San Diego Humane Society or visit the “Available Pets” section of our website for more information.

How long before the pets 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 new home.  Euthanasia is only performed when medically or behaviorally necessary.  For more information, download our complete Euthanasia Policy.

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.  Similarly, a dog with a high energy level could inadvertently knock over a young child during play.  Our Animal Care and Behavior & Training staff have closely examined the personalities of every dog, and any age recommendations assigned to a dog are meant as a guideline to help adopters determine which pet will best match the needs of their household.

Where are the available pets?
Pets are available for adoption at our Central Campus in San Diego, our North Campus in Oceanside, and at our Adoption Center inside the Petco in El Cajon. For a list of these locations and their hours, please click here.   

The San Diego Humane Society often has several “Hidden Gem” pets that are available for adoption but are not in public view.  Please click on the “Hidden Gems” icon on the “Available Pets” page of our website for more information about adopting these special pets.

Also, we bring pets into the community to events. To find out when we are in a neighborhood near you view our Mobile Adoptions Calendar.

Where do I go to get my dog licensed/rabies/vaccines?
For residents of Oceanside and Vista, dog licenses and vaccinations can be obtained through our North Campus location. For more information, please view our Pet Services page.

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.  More information about obtaining a license can be found at the Department of Animal Services website. Rabies and other vaccines can be obtained at your local veterinarian’s office or at special clinics.  The Department of Animal Services also sponsors “One-Stop Licensing Program,” where vaccinations can be obtained on the spot.

What is the adoption process?
When an individual or family comes to the San Diego Humane Society to adopt a pet, they must first fill out an adoption questionnaire.  This will help our Adoptions team to match the adopter with the right pet for them.  If the adopter is interested in meeting a specific pet they have seen at one of our locations or online, they will meet with an adoption counselor to discuss their needs as well as the needs of the pet they are interested in. 

If the pet they are interested in has any medical or behavioral conditions that the adopter should be aware of, the Adoption Counselor will discuss these issues and will set up a consultation with a member of our Veterinary Medicine or our Behavior & Training staff to further discuss any concerns the adopter may have.

If an individual is interested in adopting a pet, all members of the household must meet with the pet prior to completing the adoption. We recommend that if a dog is being considered, that any canine members of the family comes in too!  It’s important to make sure that your current dogs will feel comfortable with the new member of the family.

Where do your animals come from?
Many of the animals at the San Diego Humane Society are brought in by their owners, some are stray or found animals brought in through our North Campus, and some come to us from different shelters throughout San Diego and beyond through our transfer program.  The San Diego Humane Society regularly visits shelters both in and outside of San Diego County to help ease the overcrowded conditions that many of these shelters face, helping to ensure that no healthy animal in San Diego will have to be euthanized due to space.

If I relinquish a pet, why won’t you guarantee my animal will stay at SDHS?
Housing resources permitting, owned cats, dogs, and other small animals relinquished by their owners are admitted by the San Diego Humane Society and scanned for microchip identification. As part of our Joint Intake Policy, the San Diego Humane Society may work jointly with the Department of Animal Services in the disposition of these animals. The pet may be admitted to either the San Diego Humane Society or the Department of Animal Service’s Central shelter adoption program depending on available animal housing resources. 

Also, 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 definitions of pet dispositions

Is there a waiting list for a particular breed?
At this time, there is no official waiting list for certain breeds.  However, the variety of dogs that we have available for adoption changes daily and often includes a variety of purebred dogs.  We recommend checking our "Available Pets" page regularly to see what breeds are available each day.

Can I fill out adoption paperwork online?
Yes!  You can find our Adoption Questionnaire online at the “Adoptions” section of our website.  Filling out this questionnaire online will expedite the adoption process once your arrive at the shelter.

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 such as 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.

How are you affiliated with Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)?
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.  Because there are so many humane organizations with similar names, it is not uncommon for supporters of one humane society to mistake it with other humane societies and SPCAs.  The San Diego Humane Society and SPCA is dependent solely on financial support from our community and donors.


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