The first anti-cruelty to animals laws were passed in England in 1822.

The first American humane society was founded in 1886.

San Diego Humane Society 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.

June 9, 1880
Records dated June 9, 1880 confirm that the first fine levied by San Diego Humane Society was for $2.00 against “Mr. Collins’ boy for overriding a colt.”

1900 – 1999

1914 – 1951
Between 1914 and 1951, San Diego Humane Society occupied multiple sites around the county.

In 1934, San Diego Humane Society signed a contract with the City of San Diego to operate a shelter, then called “the pound,” under the supervision of the County Department of Health.

July 27, 1951
On July 27, 1951 the first San Diego Humane Society animals were moved into a site on Sherman Street, which had formerly been a milk plant.

After a disastrous fire in 1970, then-director Bill Virden formed the volunteer-based Animal Rescue Reserve (ARR). The ARR was the first program of its kind in the country and has provided a model for other organizations to follow ever since.

In 1999, with the Sherman Street lease about to expire, officials of the City and County of San Diego asked San Diego Humane Society to consider building a new facility adjacent to the proposed County Department of Animal Services facility on Gaines Street.

2000 – Present

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 County Department of Animal Services opened its doors in 2002. San Diego Humane Society began demolition of the old Department of Animal Services structures and moved into its new buildings on the site in September 2003.

In August 2004, a summit of animal welfare industry leaders from across the nation convened at Asilomar in Pacific Grove, California to build bridges across differing philosophies, develop relationships, agree on common animal welfare definitions, and gather statistics in a standardized format. The documents, definitions, and agreements from this gathering became known as the Asilomar Accords.

After the Asilomar Accords were adopted by several animal care agencies nationwide, 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 in San Diego County.

In 2009, San Diego Humane Society opened its Kitten Nursery, which delivers 24-hour care to infant kittens before they become eligible for adoption. The Kitten Nursery was the first program of its kind and has provided a model for other shelters ever since.

In 2009, the North County Humane Society in Oceanside announced plans to merge with San Diego Humane Society. The merger was finalized on January 11, 2010.

In 2011, additional space was leased on Airport Road in Oceanside to care for more animals. 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, San Diego Humane Society launched its first accessible, needs-based community spay/neuter clinic in November 2012.

In this fiscal year 2012-2013, we opened a new, first-of-its-kind Behavior Center to provide innovative behavior modification programs to turn animals’ lives around and give them a fresh start..

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.

July 1, 2014
On July 1, 2014, San Diego Humane Society and Escondido Humane Society merged. This merger allowed more treatable animals’ lives to be saved, increased services for pet owners, and made San Diego Humane Society one of the largest animal sheltering organizations in the nation.

September 2014
San Diego Humane Society merged with PAWS San Diego, to expand programs to help more pet owners keep their pets, making this the largest pet safety net service in San Diego. PAWS San Diego provides essential pet services and support to low-income seniors, chronically ill and disabled individuals. After merging, this vital community service kept its name and became the official safety net program of San Diego Humane Society.

October 2014
San Diego Humane Society launched San Diego Pets Magazine, in partnership with San Diego Magazine. As the only publication of its kind, San Diego Pets Magazine is a community pet resource that shares vital pet information from the San Diego Animal Welfare Coalition. Whether it’s by keeping their own pets happy and healthy, or by committing to help homeless animals in San Diego, the magazine aims to encourage people to take an active interest in the animals in our community.

November 1, 2014
On November 1, 2014 San Diego Humane Society merged with Project Wildlife, the primary local resource for animal rehabilitation, conservation, and wildlife education.

July 1, 2015
San Diego Humane Society and the San Diego Animal Welfare Coalition announced that San Diego County reached zero euthanasia for healthy and treatable animals. After working for more than a decade to restrict the county’s animal population and increase opportunities for pet adoptions, the Coalition has united to make San Diego the safest place to be a pet.

June 2017

The 10,000th kitten was admitted into San Diego Humane Society’s Kitten Nursery. Nova and his littermates were abandoned on the side of the road before they were nursed back to health in the Kitten Nursery and adopted into loving homes.

July 1, 2017

San Diego Humane Society began providing animal services in the City of Imperial Beach, expanding animal service coverage from four to seven days/week.

July 2017

The 25,000th spay/neuter was performed in San Diego Humane Society’s community spay/neuter clinic.

July 1, 2018

San Diego Humane Society began providing animal services to six more cities, marking the biggest milestone in our 138-year history. SDHS is now serving more than 2.2 million people across 620 square miles, making our humane law enforcement team the largest in California.