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

Our History

April 18, 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 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.”

A midwestern resident calls Santa Barbara Home

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 became known as Patterson Avenue. He paid $300 an acre in gold coin. Much like other farms of the day, he harvested walnuts and a lesser desired product, oranges.

Having raised grown daughters and moving to California alone, he eventually found love and built his bride a two-story Victorian-style farmhouse that was unique at that 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.

Santa Barbara Humane Society finds its first home
801 E Montecito Street

801 e montecito street santa barbara

In the meantime, the Santa Barbara Humane Society was evolving. Starting out providing humane euthanasia for overpopulation, selling licenses, and overall “pound” services, they were 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 assisting 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 established kennels and operated out of the location until eventually adding a second property with a thrift shop and administrative offices in 1959 at 1215 Anacapa Street. But 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

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. Forced to move, this generous gift enabled the organization to purchase the Beck property from the State of California and 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

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 public spay/neuter clinic to the general public for a total of 2,100 spay-neuter surgeries performed that year.

The downtown thrift shop in 1985

In the 1980s, there was a greater focus at 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

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. Nursing dogs and cats through illness and injury, the dedicated volunteers worked to find these pets their loving forever homes.

Throughout the ’80s, the 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 Today

A Historic Merger

With a drive to do more, the Santa Barbara Humane Society merged with the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society on February 3, 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 our community.

Our Santa Barbara campus still occupies five acres on Overpass Road, serving the community with a shelter, animal adoptions, public veterinary clinic, crematorium, behavior training, and boarding kennels. 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, we have made great strides in our industry in caring for and elevating the status of pets in our lives. The Santa Barbara Humane Society will continue to be the organization that cares for animals and bridges the human-animal bond. Each community is unique, and we will respond in ways that best fit the community at the current time. Until there are no more homeless pets, we will continue to provide the enrichment and care needed for the pets at our campuses until their next homes are found. We will continue to provide low-cost veterinary services, education, and training so that we can help keep animals in their homes. Collaborating with our community partners – local, regional, and beyond – by sharing resources, knowledge, and transfers will expedite our vision of a campus 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.