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 of how shelters can best support vulnerable animals. Socially Conscious Sheltering is a shared set of beliefs that animal welfare organizations around the world are embracing to create best possible outcomes for companion animals.

Our History

As one of the first animal welfare agencies in the West, Santa Barbara Humane has served our local communities since 1887.


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 the community anticipated 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 the country, 67 years before the national organization was founded. The organization’s purpose was “to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals in the County of Santa Barbara.”


That same year

A Midwestern Resident Arrives

santa barbara humane old beck farmhouse

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


The Organization Finds its First Home

santa barbara humane first home 801 e montecito street

In the meantime, the organization, known as the Santa Barbara Humane District, started providing humane euthanasia for overpopulation, selling licenses, and offering overall “pound” services. 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 place to call their own until 1940 when they purchased the property at 801 E Montecito Street. The organization operated out of the kennels established there until 1959, when it 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.



A Gift for the Animals

kathleen burke van burkaloo hale

Born in London, heiress Kathleen Burke van Barkaloo Hale was the daughter of Thomas Francis Burke and Georgina Connolly Burke. Her father was a railway executive. She qualified to study at Oxford, and she also studied at the Sorbonne as a young woman. With her first husband, Burke worked to rebuild Santa Barbara after its devastating 1925 earthquake. She was active in supporting many civic organizations in Santa Barbara, including the hospital, the public library, the Lobero Theatre, the Junior League, scouting organizations, and Santa Barbara Humane. She died just one month after her husband passed when they were both in their 70s. In her will, she left a generous gift to Santa Barbara Humane. 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, and the damage 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 organization’s administrative offices. Doors opened in 1964 where animals and those who love them are still served today.



Expansion of 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 had a four-month waiting list. In 1972, Santa Barbara Humane began spaying and neutering its adoptable animals and performed nearly 1,700 surgeries in the first year. The next year, the spay/neuter clinic opened to the general public with 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 ashes of beloved pets. The renovated barn provided housing for small animals and educational programs for the community.



A Humane Community Expands

santa maria valley humane society

As Santa Barbara Humane 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

As a direct result of generations of donor support, Santa Barbara Humane Society and Santa Maria Valley Humane Society merged on February 1, 2020. The change provided the opportunity to combine resources and expand services to the community for thousands of families and their pets. The merger revitalized and unified the organization with a new name: Santa Barbara Humane.

The merger came at the best time as members of the community suffered a dramatic change in circumstance due to the global pandemic. Thousands of families needed financial assistance for pet care. Just in the first year of the merger:

  • More than 20,000 veterinary services were performed for community-owned animals
  • 1,000 families received assistance of the TLC Fund supporting veterinary services
  • 1,800 animals received affordable training and rehabilitation
  • 800 animals were transferred in from overcrowded shelters
  • 400 animals were surrendered for a second chance
  • 100 stray animals were received
  • 1,400 animals were placed in loving homes


137 Years Later, the Work Continues

photos of santa maria and santa barbara campus buildings

Today, both the Santa Barbara campus on Overpass Road and the Santa Maria campus on Stowell Road serve the community with shelter, animal adoptions, high-quality, full-service veterinary clinics, and behavior training. Both locations offer outdoor play areas for daily socialization and exercise for the canine population, and the Santa Maria campus recently added dog-walking paths.

As a result of the global pandemic, there has been a 300% increase in requests for financial support from the ten communities served by the shelters, and the organization has evolved and adapted to meet the growing need. The clinic hours at the Santa Maria campus were extended and the medical services offered at both clinics were expanded. The organization is the only open-admission organization in the county, ensuring all animals have a chance at a loving home, regardless of age, health, or prior circumstances. The Trap-Neuter-Return program was relaunched and revamped to help mitigate overpopulation of feral cats in Santa Maria. In June 2021, an off-campus dog training facility was opened to accommodate the increased need for behavior training classes in north county.

Generations of donor support ensures that animals always have a place to receive shelter, medical care, love, and support for whatever they need. With supporters like you here every step of the way, the organization is ready to serve the community for the next 135 years and beyond.


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

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