San Diego Humane Society

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San Diego Humane Society and SPCA

Central Campus

5500 Gaines Street
San Diego, California 92110
United States
Type Non-Profit
Established 1880

San Diego Humane Society and SPCA, is a non-profit organization in San Diego, California with three campuses in San Diego County. The organization's programs include; sheltering and adopting animals, investigating animal cruelty and neglect, rescuing animals in emergency situations, positive reinforcement behavior training through public training classes, providing adult and youth education programs, sharing animals through pet-assisted therapy and more. In Oceanside and Vista, the San Diego Humane Society North Campus provides animal control and stray pet services for the public. [1]

Mission statement[edit]

To promote the humane treatment of animals, to prevent cruelty to animals, and provide education to enhance the human-animal bond.[2]


The San Diego Humane Society and SPCA was organized on March 10, 1880[3] and is the oldest and largest humane society in San Diego County, 54 years later the organization signed a contract with the City of San Diego to run the shelter under the supervision of San Diego counties Department of Health. In 1951, the first animals were moved to the original site, located on Sherman Street (formerly a milk plant). The lease was set to expire in 2000 and the city of San Diego asked the Humane Society to consider building a new facility adjacent to the proposed County Animal Services facility on Gaines Street. The Humane Society accepted and opened the facility in 2002.

Through merger agreements, the San Diego Humane Society absorbed the former North County Humane Society & SPCA in Oceanside, California, and the Escondido Humane Society in Escondido, California.


The San Diego Humance Society and SPCA is a private, nonprofit organization that receives no government funding, and is supported solely by contributions, grants, bequests, investments, proceeds from the Humane Society’s retail store, The Muttique, and fees for service (adoption). Currently, the organization has 260 employees and more than 1,100 volunteers.[4]

Law Enforcement[edit]

San Diego Humane Society and SPCA Humane Law Enforcement
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SDHS HLE Shoulder Patch
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Agency overview
Formed 1880
Jurisdiction State of California
Headquarters 887 Sherman Street, San Diego, California
Agency executive
  • Steve MacKinnon, Chief of Law Enforcement
Parent agency San Diego Humane Society and SPCA

The San Diego Humane Society employs officers charged with investigating reports of animal cruelty, and enforcing associated laws. These officers are assigned to the "Humane Law Enforcement" division of the San Diego Humane Society, and receive their authority from Section 14502 of the California Corporations Code. These officers have the full authority of California Peace Officers when investigating cases of animal cruelty and abuse, and enforcing associated laws. They have jurisdictional authority anywhere in the State of California, however their primary area of responsibility is the County of San Diego. Officers are issued TASER devices, collapsible baton, and OC Spray as defensive weapons. Prior to 2004, officers who had completed the required training were permitted to carry firearms, however the agency no longer permits this. Officers drive a mixture of patrol vehicles, primarily Ford trucks and SUVs.

In addition to enforcing State Animal Cruelty, Abuse and Neglect laws, some officers are also assigned to the two northern campuses that provide Animal Control services by contract to the cities of Vista, Oceanside, San Marcos, Escondido, Poway, and certain Indian Reservations. These officers respond to calls for service such as stray animals, and enforce city ordinances such as leash laws, nuisance and dangerous animals, etc.

The Society's Humane Law Enforcement division also operates its own communications center, responsible for providing dispatch services and mutual aid communications for officers at the Society's three campuses. The communications center also provides services for the Animal Rescue Reserve, when those units are dispatched to an incident. The agency uses the San Diego-Imperial County Regional Communications System as its communications network, enabling seamless communications with other agencies in their jurisdiction.

Animal Rescue & Emergency Response[edit]

Under the San Diego Humane Society Humane Law Enforcement division, is a subdivision referred to as the "Animal Rescue Reserve, or "ARR". ARR consists entirely of specially trained volunteers who provide emergency animal rescue services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This subdivision of the Humane Law Enforcement functions as a pseudo-volunteer fire department, and these volunteers are trained and certified to perform rescue operations alongside county fire agencies, and are routinely dispatched to respond alongside fire agencies to wildfire situations involving potential threats to ranch lands, neighborhoods, and any areas where there may be a threat to animals. They do not provide firefighting services, but focus solely on the rescue aspect of the situation.

The ARR subdivision is commanded by a sworn Humane Law Enforcement Captain, and has its own paramilitary rank structure, and its own subdivisions with teams assigned to them. Examples of some of these teams are Receiving, which takes care of housing and caring for rescued animals during emergency situations, Mobile which handles the transportation of rescued animals, Operations, which handles the actual rescues, and Scouts/Communications which provides situational awareness, monitoring, supervisory and communications capacity during rescues.

ARR personnel have been summoned to respond to natural disasters as far away as Louisiana and Texas. Though they are a subdivision of the Humane Law Enforcement Division, ARR personnel do not have any law enforcement authority beyond that of a regular citizen.

Awareness on Abuse[edit]

The San Diego Humane Society responded to 1,800[5] animal abuse reports in 2013. Most of the calls required pet owner education, but 20 calls brought criminal charges. Kelli Herwehe, San Diego Human Society public relations coordinator told The Coast News “It’s important for people to know the signs to look for,” Herwehe said. “Animals can’t talk. We need to be their voice.” The organization is focused on educating the public. "“About 90 percent is educating the public,” Herwehe said. “It’s not intentional cruelty or neglect.” But the 10% of legitimate cases go to the Society's Humane Law Enforcement Division.[6]