San Diego Humane Society and SPCA

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History of San Diego Humane Society


1800 - 1899

  • San Diego Humane SocietyThe first anti-cruelty to animals laws were passed in England in 1822.
  • The first American humane society was founded in 1866.
  • 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.
  • 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

  • San Diego Humane SocietyBetween 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.
  • 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

  • San Diego Humane SocietyIn 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 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 in San Diego County.
  • In 2008 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 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, 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.
  • On September 1, 2014 San Diego Humane Society merged with PAWS San Diego, which provides essential pet services and support to low-income seniors, chronically ill, and disabled individuals. This vital community service is now the official safety net program of San Diego Humane Society.
  • On November 1, 2014 San Diego Humane Society merged with Project Wildlife, the primary local resource for animal rehabilitation, conservation, and wildlife education.