Building a Better World for Animals

It’s true that San Diego Humane Society is based in Southern California — the organization’s five campuses span the large and highly populated county, with locations in El Cajon, Escondido, Ramona, San Diego and Oceanside. And while this private, open-admission shelter is committed to creating a more humane San Diego for animals and people in need, it is also a national leader in the field of animal welfare. Through innovative programs that touch the lives of nearly 50,000 animals each year, San Diego Humane Society is creating best practices that help shelters across the country save more lives in their own communities. Here are a few things that make San Diego Humane Society more than a traditional animal shelter.

World-class veterinary care
PHOTO COURTESY SAN DIEGO HUMANE SOCIETY
PHOTO COURTESY SAN DIEGO HUMANE SOCIETY»

Through its Veterinary Medicine program, the organization provides lifesaving care rarely seen in shelter environments — including orthopedics, cancer treatment, specialized dental surgeries and infectious disease management. San Diego Humane Society’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Zarah Hedge, is one of just 28 veterinarians in the country certified in shelter medicine by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. In 2018, San Diego Humane Society opened the Pilar & Chuck Bahde Center for Shelter Medicine, the first of its kind in California. A true teaching hospital, this center focuses not only on providing services for animals in care, but also on educating the shelter veterinarians of tomorrow. San Diego Humane Society’s competitive shelter medicine internships draw applicants from across the country and train talented veterinarians for careers caring for the diverse needs of shelter populations.

24-hour Kitten Nursery
PHOTO COURTESY SAN DIEGO HUMANE SOCIETY
PHOTO COURTESY SAN DIEGO HUMANE SOCIETY»

In 2009, San Diego Humane Society opened the first 24-hour Kitten Nursery in the country. Here, caregivers provide neonate kittens — some just days, or even hours, old — with around-the-clock bottle-feeding, temperature regulation, medical attention and more. Before this facility was developed, these fragile animals had nowhere else to turn. Since its inception, the Kitten Nursery has cared for more than 13,000 kittens and shares its knowledge to help other shelters set up similar lifesaving centers. In fact, two years ago, San Diego Humane Society established a free online Kitten Resource Center to help shelter professionals start and successfully operate kitten programs. It now has about 100 subscribers from the U.S. and Canada, and is helping to save more tiny lives every day.

A place for wildlife
PHOTO COURTESY SAN DIEGO HUMANE SOCIETY
PHOTO COURTESY SAN DIEGO HUMANE SOCIETY»

Project Wildlife, San Diego Humane Society’s program for rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing injured and orphaned wildlife, cares for more than 13,000 animals each year. At the Pilar & Chuck Bahde Wildlife Center in San Diego, local wildlife such as raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, songbirds and more receive lifesaving care in habitats specially designed to minimize stress and meet the unique needs of each species. And at its 13-acre Ramona Wildlife Center, the organization cares for apex predators such as bobcats, coyotes, bears and birds of prey. It is also home to 22 animal ambassadors, including a 47-year-old pygmy hippo named Hannah Shirley. Through these remarkable facilities, San Diego Humane Society provides a designated safe space for nearly all wild animals in Southern California to receive a second chance.

Leaders in Humane Law Enforcement
PHOTO COURTESY SAN DIEGO HUMANE SOCIETY
PHOTO COURTESY SAN DIEGO HUMANE SOCIETY»

San Diego Humane Society has one of the largest teams of Humane Officers in California, who are in the field seven days a week keeping animals safe. Not only can Officers issue citations, make arrests, file criminal charges and serve warrants, they also respond and rescue animals from disaster situations in Southern California with the assistance of the Humane Society’s 24-hour volunteer-operated Emergency Response Team. Each year, San Diego Humane Society operates an 80-hour Basic Animal Law Enforcement Academy, in cooperation with the California Animal Welfare Association and California Veterinary Medical Association, which trains Humane Officers from throughout the state.

A State-of-the-Art Behavior Center

PHOTO COURTESY SAN DIEGO HUMANE SOCIETY»

Through its Behavior & Training program, San Diego Humane Society has given thousands of animals a second chance who would have otherwise been considered unadoptable due to severe behavioral issues. In 2019, the organization opened a state-of-the-art Behavior Center at its San Diego Campus, where approximately 600 dogs and cats receive intensive, individualized behavior training each year. One of the only centers of its kind in the country, and the only one to work with such a large volume of animals, the Behavior Center helps animals with shy, fearful, defensive and other challenging behaviors prepare for success in loving homes. San Diego Humane Society also provides training resources to members of the public, including a Behavior Helpline, public training classes (including 50 virtual options!) and more.

Staying at Zero

Thanks to the community’s support and its lifesaving programs, San Diego Humane Society has not euthanized a healthy or treatable shelter animal since 2002. In 2015, the organization partnered with the San Diego Animal Welfare Coalition — a collaboration of area shelters, foster families, rescue groups and other lifesaving partners — to achieve zero euthanasia of healthy or treatable shelter animals throughout San Diego County. This means that all healthy and treatable animals entering the San Diego animal sheltering system are safe from being euthanized. Today, San Diego is the largest city in the nation to have achieved this milestone — and the organization remains committed to Staying at Zero year over year.

San Diego Humane Society is private, independent nonprofit organization — which means that its innovative programs are only possible thanks to the generous support of their donors. To learn more about their lifesaving work — and how you can help — please visit sdhumane.org.