Leading Santa Barbara Animal Welfare Organizations Announce Historic Merger
A New Era of Caring, Compassion, and Hope for the Central Coast

Santa Barbara, CA – The 132-year-old Santa Barbara Humane Society (SBHS) announces an historic merger. Starting today, the 35-year-old Santa Maria Valley Humane Society is part of SBHS, creating an expanded organization, operating out of two campuses. These leading animal welfare organizations join forces to provide caring, compassion, and hope for more animals in need across the Central Coast.  Creating a regional awareness of animal welfare needs and serving the community through two campus locations, 5399 Overpass Road in Santa Barbara and 1687 W. Stowell Road in Santa Maria, combined with the strong leadership and pooled financial resources of the new organization, will allow the expansion of core programs. Programs like community veterinary services, animal training, and more will expand with the merger.   This merger will allow the unified organizations to accommodate more rescue efforts, increase pet adoptions, and provide additional reduced cost and free spaying and neutering services for dogs and cats to prevent animal homelessness.


Prior to this merger, both Santa Barbara Humane Society (SBHS) and Santa Maria Valley Humane Society (SMVHS) have served California’s Central Coast as separate public charities.   After extensive due diligence, meetings, and negotiations, as well as help from experienced non-profit partnership consultant Vance Yoshida, the Santa Barbara Foundation, and others, each organization’s board of directors voted to merge, creating a sustainable entity that will provide for the welfare and well-being of animals, optimize economies of scale, and determine the best use of donor funds.  “In our current philanthropic and political climate, more demands than ever are being placed on the social sector,” says Bob Yost, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the newly merged humane society. “Non-profits have to be smart and nimble to navigate the best use of available funds and the delivery of more services.”  


The merger effective date is February 1, 2020 but the transition to operate as one organization will take place strategically over the next 12 months. “As we look at the future of animal welfare in our region, we see agencies working together to help more animals in need, especially during times of crisis like responding to fires and other man-made and natural disasters,” says Kerri Burns, who moves from Executive Director of SBHS to President of the merged organization.  “A talented leadership team with extensive experience in animal welfare will lead the new organization.” This includes Katie Marrie, DVM, former Veterinarian with the ASPCA in Los Angeles and now Vice President of Veterinary Medicine and Dori Villalon, former Operations Director for Santa Barbara County Animal Services and now Vice President of Campus Operations. Kerri Burns adds, “In this transition, we want to acknowledge the efforts of Sean Hawkins, who is moving on from Executive Director of SMVHS to be closer to his family on the East Coast. He has been instrumental in both the merger process and in positioning SMVHS as the North County resource for animal welfare.”


The current priority is to strengthen the foundation of the organization and focus on the integration of programs, staff, and volunteers.  “Other than combining staff and developing consistent operating procedures, the public will notice very little difference in services at the two campus locations right away. Across both campuses, our team remains committed to serving the distinct animal welfare needs of all our community members.” said Dori Villalon, the new Vice President of Campus Operations.  


To access any current Humane Society services in Santa Barbara, the public should call (805) 964-4777 and for services in Santa Maria, the public should call (805) 349-3435.