Humane Societies renamed to Santa Barbara Humane with expanded services
The Santa Barbara and Santa Maria Humane Societies merged a little over a year ago, and the combined nonprofit will now officially call itself “Santa Barbara Humane.”
Board members, staff and volunteers gathered Saturday afternoon at the Goleta campus to celebrate the accomplishments of the merger thus far, while looking ahead to the future of the combined nonprofits.
“Day-to-day operations from the beginning of the merger will not change, but we’re going to expand those services and we’re actually going to start adding more services,” Kerri Burns, CEO of Santa Barbara Humane, told the News-Press. “We’re figuring out what the needs of each end of the county are and we’ll be expanding the services based on what the community needs.”
These expanded services will focus mostly on the organization’s safety net programs, which include behavior training, medical intervention, pet food banks, financial assistance for veterinary bills and more. The programs aim to meet pet owners where they are and help them keep their pets, rather than relinquishing them.
The merger came a month before the pandemic hit in 2020, which resulted in an increase in adoptions and animal fostering. Animals’ length of stays decreased to around six or seven days, according to Ms. Burns.
“All across our nation, people started fostering and adopting. Capacity for shelters went down to about 50%, but we’re so thankful, because it gave our industry as a whole a moment to breathe and think and say, ‘How are we going to do our business differently, or are we, as we move forward?’” Ms. Burns said.
Since the Santa Barbara and Santa Maria shelters merged: 20,000 veterinary services were performed for community-owned animals; 1,000 families received assistance from the TLC Fund supporting veterinary services; 1,800 animals received affordable training and rehabilitation; 800 animals transferred in from overcrowded shelters; 400 animals were surrendered for a second chance; 100 stray animals were received; and, most importantly, 1,400 animals were placed in loving homes.
On top of that, requests for support to spay or neuter a pet went up by 250% this year, highlighting the increase in pet adoption. However, pet relinquishments are also up, with 79 owner-surrenders through April in Santa Barbara and 155 in Santa Maria. Humane staff says this reaffirms the need for the expanded services.
According to Ms. Burns, there are two main reasons pet owners turn in their pet: because of a medical issue or because they’re moving, and this still remains the case today.
“If you want to keep your pet, or for some reason you think you can’t, we throw out this safety net to say, ‘How can we help you keep your pet in your home?’” she said, referencing medical care, food and training as things less expensive to get at Santa Barbara Humane than a shelter.
“A lot of people come here because their dog is unruly and we can provide those services,” the CEO said. “We have some scholarship rooms set up for people if they can’t afford it — we can get them in a class, because they love their pet. They just don’t know what to do, so these safety net programs and resources that we’re expanding because of the merger are really, really helpful for these pets.”
Santa Barbara City Councilman Eric Friedman attended the celebration Saturday, and shared that he and his wife renamed their new dog when they adopted it, changing it from “Eclipse” to “Morgan” — that is, “Morgan Friedman.”
“Any time you can have North County and South County come together as one, it really moves our community and our county together as a whole,” he said. “Just the ability to have those services, such as medical or spay/neuter, or even food services for families right now that might be struggling financially, will really help keep those pets in their homes and properly cared for.”
Sofia Rodriguez, the chief philanthropy officer at Santa Barbara Humane, said that being able to help community members with veterinary care has been especially important over the past year.
“We’ve had people come in to us and think they’re coming in for a check up, and recognize there’s an ear infection or something going on with their (the pet’s) urination, and next thing you know it’s $1,500, and unexpected veterinary bills are not easy for anybody, let alone during a pandemic,” she told the News-Press. “Luckily, the community here, they realize we’re a local organization that relies on local funds, and they step up and donate year after year. We have thousands of donors that donate specifically to this program to help support their neighbors.”
Overall, Ms. Burns told the group gathered outside Santa Barbara Humane, next to the company vans already decked out with the new name and logo, that the new name “just felt right.”
“You know the time when you adopt a pet, and the pet (owners) come up with a name and it’s “Jack” and you just look in the animal’s eyes and you’re like, ‘Jack just doesn’t fit you,’ so you either come up with a new name in the middle of the night or you send out a picture of your new pet to social media and have your friends decide, but when you finally decide on the right name, it just feels right and it seems right and it looks right?” she asked. “That’s one of the reasons why we actually chose this name, is because it felt right and it seemed right.
“After spending a year as one team making a powerful impact countywide, it was clear we needed a new name to reflect that community and commitment. We wanted to emphasize the word ‘humane’ because we’re a humane organization, and we kept Santa Barbara because of the history and the county we serve.”
Visit sbhumane.org to learn more about the organization and resources available.