San Diego Humane Society and SPCA
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History of the San Diego Humane Society

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  • The first animal anti-cruelty laws were passed in England in 1822.

  • The first American humane society was founded in 1866.

  • The San Diego Humane Society and SPCA was organized on March 10, 1880 by George W. Marston and George W. Hazzard, and is the oldest and largest humane society in San Diego County.

  • Records dated June 9, 1880 indicate the first fine was levied by the Humane Society for $2.00 against "Mr. Collins' boy for overriding a colt."

  • Between 1914 and 1951 the Humane Society occupied a number of sites.

  • In 1934 the Humane Society signed a contract with the City of San Diego to operate the shelter, (then called "the pound"), under the supervision of the county department of health.

  • On July 27, 1951 the first SDHS animals were moved to a site on Sherman Street (formerly a milk plant).

  • Former director Bill Virden, as a consequence of a disastrous fire, formed the volunteer-based Animal Rescue Reserve (ARR) in 1970. The ARR was the first of its kind in the country and has provided a model for other societies to follow.

  • Knowing that the Sherman Street lease was about to expire, in 1999 officials of the City and County of San Diego asked the Humane Society to consider building a new facility adjacent to the proposed County Animal Services facility on Gaines Street.

  • In 2000, the Board of Trustees approved the purchase of the Sherman Street facility after the 49-year lease with the city expired.

  • After a year-long delay caused by a fire just before opening, the Department opened its doors in 2002. The Humane Society began demolition of the old Department of Animal Services (DAS) structures and moved to its new buildings on the site in September of 2003.

  • In August of 2004, a summit of animal welfare industry leaders from across the nation convened at Asilomar in Pacific Grove, CA, to build bridges across differing philosophies, develop relationships, agree on common animal welfare definitions, and gather statistics in a standardized format known as the Asilomar Accords. After this meeting, the San Diego Animal Welfare Coalition was formed so that local animal welfare organizations could work together to reduce the euthanasia of healthy or treatable companion animals.

  • To address the issue of young kittens entering local shelters that did not have the means to care for them, the San Diego Humane Society opened the Paws to Success Nursery in 2008 in order to deliver 24-hour care to young kittens before they become eligible for adoption.

  • In 2009, the North County Humane Society in Oceanside announced plans to merge with the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA. The merger was finalized on January 11, 2010. In 2011, additional space was leased on Airport Road in Oceanside to care for more animals and reach more people with educational programs. At the same time, substantial renovations were made to the off-leash dog park nearby with the support of Petco and the Petco Foundation.

  • To provide services throughout the county, the San Diego Humane Society launched its first accessible, needs-based community spay/neuter clinic in November 2012.

  • In September 2013, the City of San Diego passed the Companion Animal Protection Ordinance, which bans the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores in the City of San Diego.

  • On July 1, 2014, the San Diego Humane Society and the Escondido Humane Society merged with the vision of a more humane San Diego. This merger allows more treatable animals' lives to be saved, makes additional resources available for animal welfare services, increases available services for individual pet owners, and makes the San Diego Humane Society one of the largest animal sheltering organizations in the nation.


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