Our history & mission

Our Mission

To be champions for animals and the people who love them.

Our Vision

To create a happy, healthy community for all animals.

Our Values

  • Work together
  • Think big
  • Care deeply

Socially Conscious Sheltering

Socially Conscious Sheltering is a compassionate, transparent, and thoughtful model for animal welfare organizations, whether that organization is a non-profit rescue group, humane organization, private rescue, or municipal shelter. There are eight tenets of Socially Conscious Sheltering.

Our History


The Beginning

In 1887, Santa Barbara County could see innovation and commercial travel on the horizon. Residents saw State Street illuminated with light for the first time. Telephone communication became a reality and they were in anticipation of the first railroad.

One of the most important community accomplishments that year was the founding of the Santa Barbara Humane Society on April 18, 1887. This made the organization one of the first animal welfare agencies in all of the West. The local Humane Society’s purpose was “to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals in the County of Santa Barbara by means of existing laws or laws to be hereinafter enacted for the protection of animals, and to ensure by all lawful means, the arrest, conviction, and punishment of all persons violating such laws; and to labor in the education of public sentiment of humanity and gentleness toward dumb animals.”


That same year

A Midwestern Resident Calls Santa Barbara Home

santa barbara humane old beck farmhouse

That same year, David Beck had just moved from Illinois and purchased a little more than 27 acres in a development fronting the road that had already become known as Patterson Avenue. He paid $300 per acre in gold coin. Much like other farms of the day, he harvested walnuts and a less desired product, oranges.

Beck had raised grown daughters and moved to California alone. He eventually found love and built his bride a two-story Victorian-style farmhouse that was unique at the time. It was completed in 1889. Under the guidance of his widow, the farm continued to thrive even after his passing. After many years of selling off pieces of the farm and land, the State of California acquired the land, including the family home, barn, and outbuildings.

That same year


Santa Barbara Humane Society Finds its First Home

801 E Montecito Street

santa barbara humane first home 801 e montecito street

In the meantime, the Santa Barbara Humane Society was evolving. The organization started by providing humane euthanasia for overpopulation, selling licenses, and providing overall “pound” services, and it was known as the Santa Barbara Humane District. There was even a period in the ’20s of assisting with the prevention of cruelty to children and supporting the elderly. They didn’t have a property to call their own until 1940 when they purchased the property at 801 E Montecito Street. They operated out of the kennels established there until 1959, when they added a second property with a thrift shop and administrative offices at 1215 Anacapa Street. However, when the city needed the area for a parking lot, the organization had to move. This is when the Beck House history intersects with the home of the Santa Barbara Humane Society.



A Gift for the Animals

kathleen burke van burkaloo hale

Born in London, Montecito heiress Kathleen Burke van Barkaloo Hale was married three times in her lifetime. Two of her husbands predeceased her, and her second husband passed at just 37 years old. She died just one month after her third husband when they were both in their 70s. In her will, she left a generous gift to the Santa Barbara Humane Society. As they were forced to move, this large donation enabled the organization to purchase the Beck property from the State of California as well as an adjacent property from the Borgaros Family. Unfortunately, vandals struck before the administrative offices could open, which required a complete renovation. After construction and the addition of the kennels by Delmer S. Steele, Board Member and owner of a construction company, the farmhouse became the administrative offices. Doors opened in 1964 where animals and those who love them are still served today.



Expansion in Services Throughout the County

santa barbara humane society thrift shop

With kennel locations throughout the county including Lompoc and Santa Maria, the new shelter set its sights on expanding services. In 1968, there were no spay/neuter clinics in the U.S. In fact, the first public spay/neuter clinic in the United States opened in Los Angeles in 1969 and they had a four-month waiting list. In 1972, the Santa Barbara Humane Society began spaying and neutering its adoptable animals and performed nearly 1,700 surgeries in their first year. The next year, the Society opened its spay/neuter clinic to the general public for a total of 2,100 spay-neuter surgeries performed that year.

In the 1980s, the focus shifted to the main shelter grounds with the closure of the Thrift Shop and the addition of boarding kennels, a cat care building, isolation kennels, and a columbarium for the placement of ashes of beloved pets. The renovated barn provided housing for small animals for educational programs for the community.



A Humane Community Expands

santa maria valley humane society

As the Santa Barbara Humane Society was growing, so too was the animal welfare community in the County. Due to the relentless effort of north county residents, the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society became an official 501(c)(3) public charity serving homeless animals in 1984.

Initially, the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society worked to rescue stray animals by fostering homeless pets in their homes. Dedicated volunteers nursed dogs and cats through illness and injury while working to find these pets loving homes.

Throughout the ’80s, volunteers like Ruth Macy, Mickey Trapp, Fern Williams, Nancy Pusser, Jean Eaton, and Dr. Jack Sohrbeck sold hot dogs and sodas on street corners from Lompoc to San Luis Obispo, and held yard and bake sales to raise money for a much-needed animal shelter facility. A lengthy capital campaign project came to fruition in 1988 when the City of Santa Maria offered the Society land for one dollar a year next to the wastewater treatment plant. With donations from the public, grant money provided by the Santa Barbara Foundation, and the generosity of A.J. Diani, the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society Animal Adoption Facility became a reality.



Leading the Community

A Historic Merger

With a drive to do more, the Santa Barbara Humane Society merged with the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society on February 1, 2020, to expand care, services, and hope to more animals in need across the County. Together, in 2019, the organizations adopted more than 2,300 dogs and cats, performed 4,896 spay/neuter surgeries, and transferred more than 1,500 animals from overcrowded shelters.

More Than 130 Years Later, the Work Continues

Since 1887, services to the people and animals of Santa Barbara County have maintained the original purpose set out by the founder E.T. Weitzel. Through the work of thousands of donors, volunteers, staff, and the community, the priorities of your local Humane Society have remained the same: shelter and rehabilitation for animals, and medical care, training, and education for the community.




photos of santa maria and santa barbara campus buildings

The Santa Barbara campus still occupies five acres on Overpass Road, serving the community with a shelter, animal adoptions, public veterinary clinic, crematorium, and behavior training. Large outdoor play areas provide daily socialization and exercise for the canine population. In 2019, the dog kennels were renovated and cat areas were expanded to improve feline socialization for better adoption success.

Agricultural fields surround the Santa Maria campus where a new facility was built in 2013. This campus serves the community with a shelter, animal adoptions, a low-cost veterinary clinic, behavior training, large play yards, and newly added dog-walking paths.

For more than 100 years, the organization has made great strides in caring for and elevating the status of pets in our lives through community support. Santa Barbara Humane will continue to be the organization that cares for animals and strengthens the human-animal bond. Each community is unique, and the organization is committed to responding in ways that best fit the community at the current time. Until there are no more homeless pets, Santa Barbara Humane will provide enrichment and care to the animals at both campuses until their next homes are found. In addition, the generosity of donors will provide for low-cost veterinary services, education, and training to keep animals in their homes. Collaborating with community partners – local, regional, and beyond – by sharing resources, knowledge, and transfers will expedite the shared vision of a community where sheltering is no longer needed, and we turn to the support of pets and the people who love them.


Some excerpts taken from Beck House, A Goleta Farmhouse Reborn by Gary B. Coombs and Jon Bartel.