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San Diego Humane Society

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you take in any type of animal?

San Diego Humane Society only accepts companion animals that are kept as pets, including cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, reptiles and birds. We take in livestock when necessary as part of our Humane Law activities. We accept wildlife through our Project Wildlife program.

Do you have exotic animals/horses/etc. for adoption?

We do sometimes have unusual pets, such as bearded dragons, chinchillas and horses available for adoption, but we do not guarantee that they will be available every day. See all adoptable animals.

How are you affiliated with Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)?

We are not. San Diego Humane Society is an independent 501(c)(3) organization and is not affiliated with any other local, state or national organization such as the Humane Society of the United States in Washington or the ASPCA in New York. San Diego Humane Society is supported by contributions, grants, bequests, investments, municipal contracts and small fees for services.

How long before the animals in your care are euthanized?

San Diego Humane Society does not use length of stay at the shelter as a criterion for euthanasia. Once a healthy or treatable animal becomes available for adoption, they will remain available for as long as is necessary to find a home. Euthanasia is only performed when medically or behaviorally necessary. 

How many animals does the Humane Society care for?

At our various public and private locations, we could have 1,500 domestic and wild animals in our care daily, all in need of individual care. This includes animals available for adoption, in foster homes, under veterinary care, in protective custody, on stray hold, in our Behavior Center or receiving rehabilitative care through Project Wildlife.

What is the San Diego Animal Welfare Coalition?

San Diego Humane Society is one of nine animal welfare organizations that make up the San Diego Animal Welfare Coalition. The Coalition was formed to provide a safety net for the county's shelters; when one shelter does not feel they have the resources to care for a certain animal at that time, they can transfer the animal to another coalition shelter that may be better prepared to meet the animal's needs. 

I relinquished an animal to San Diego Humane Society yesterday. Why isn't this pet available for adoption yet?

Once an animal is relinquished to San Diego Humane Society, they undergo a thorough medical examination before becoming available for adoption. This process can take several days and includes spaying or neutering, vaccinating, microchipping, examination for and treatment of medical conditions, dental procedures, X-rays, blood tests and even surgery when necessary.

Throughout the animal's stay with us, we continue to monitor the animal medically and behaviorally. As needs arise, the animal may receive additional medical treatment or work with our behavior team through basic or more advanced training needs.

Is there a waiting list for a particular breed?

There is no waiting list. The animals we have available for adoption change daily. Check the Available Pets page to see what we currently have.

What is the adoption process?

Read all about it on our Adoption Process page.

What is the difference between a Humane Society and a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA)?

While the terms themselves are sometimes used interchangeably, "SPCA" usually designates an organization that is actively involved in prevention of cruelty to animals through education and/or cruelty investigations.

"Humane Society" generally refers to an organization that engages in on-site sheltering of animals.

Because San Diego Humane Society's mission, programs and services include animal cruelty investigations, sheltering, adoptions, education and more, both terms describe our organization.

What is the difference between San Diego Humane Society and the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services?

The two agencies work cooperatively to save the life of every adoptable animal in San Diego County but remain independent.

San Diego Humane Society provides animal services for the cities of Carlsbad, Del Mar, El Cajon, Encinitas, Escondido, La Mesa, Oceanside, Poway, San Diego, San Marcos, Santee, Solana Beach and Vista. The County of San Diego Department of Animal Services provides animal services to the unincorporated areas of San Diego County.

Where are your available pets?

Animals in our care are available for adoption at more than 10 locations throughout San Diego County. See all locations and hours.

A little-known fact: We often have several Hidden Gems, pets available for adoption but not in public view.

We also bring available animals to community events. To find out when we'll be in a neighborhood near you, see our Events Calendar.

Where do I go to get my dog licensed/rabies shots/vaccines?

For residents of Carlsbad, Del Mar, El Cajon, Encinitas, Escondido, Oceanside, Poway, San Diego, San Marcos, Santee, Solana Beach and Vista, dog licenses and vaccinations can be obtained through our licensing department. Click here for more information about licensing.

For residents of other cities and some unincorporated areas of San Diego County, dog licenses can be obtained by contacting the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services at 619-236-4250.

The Department of Animal Services also sponsors a "One-Stop Licensing Program," where vaccinations can be obtained on the spot. More information can be found at

Rabies and other vaccines can be obtained through our vaccine clinics or at your local veterinarian's office. Click here for more information about our vaccine services.

Where do your animals come from?

Many of the animals at SDHS are brought in by their owners, some are stray/found animals and some come to us from other shelters through our transfer program.

San Diego Humane Society regularly visits shelters, both in and outside of San Diego County, to take in animals and help ease the overcrowded conditions that many shelters face. This helps ensure no healthy animal will have to be euthanized due to lack of space.

Why do so many of your dogs have age recommendations?

Age recommendations are assigned to certain dogs to help protect the safety of both the dog and the family that may adopt it. Dogs do not communicate in the same ways as humans do — they communicate through very subtle body language. While an adult may realize that a dog's rigid posture may mean "I don't want to share my toy with you," a young child may not understand this cue. Additionally, a dog with a high energy level could inadvertently knock over a young child during play.

Our Animal Care and Behavior & Training staff have closely examined the personalities of every dog, and any age recommendations assigned are meant as a guideline to help adopters determine which pet will best match the needs of their household.

How many dogs and cats can someone have?

Residents are allowed up to three dogs or cats combined.

Del Mar:
Residents are allowed up to six dogs.

El Cajon:
Residents are allowed up to two dogs and two cats.

In all residential zones, up to six dogs are allowed.

Residents may have two to four dogs and cats, depending on the zone.

Residents may have up to six domestic or three exotic animals, including not more than three dogs.

Residents may have up to three dogs and three cats.

San Diego:
Having more than six dogs at a residence is considered a kennel, which is not permitted in residential zones. For further questions, contact San Diego Code Compliance at 619-236-5500.

San Marcos:
Residents are allowed up to six dogs or cats combined.

Residents are allowed up to four dogs or cats combined.

Solana Beach:
Residents are allowed up to four dogs and four cats.

Residents are allowed one to four dogs and cats, depending on the zone.

Who can I contact for dead animal removal?

To report a dead animal on a city street or beach, contact the City of Carlsbad at 760-434-2980 during regular business hours. After hours or on weekends, call the City of Carlsbad Police Department’s dispatch center at 760-931-2197. For the removal of a dead animal on a state beach (south of Pine Avenue), call 760-438-5021.

Del Mar: 
Public Property: The city contracts with DAR Contractors to remove dead animals located on city streets, public property or within the public right of way. If you see a dead animal in a public area that needs to be removed, please contact the city’s Public Works Department at 858-755-3294.

Private Property: Through the city’s contract, DAR Contractors will remove dead animals on private property at the cost of the property owner, for the same contractual rates that are charged to the city. Fees for dead animal removal on private property vary depending on the weight of the animal. A copy of the contractual fee schedule with DAR Contractors can be found here: Private property owners can contact DAR Contractors at 619-390-8204. Residents may solicit dead animal removal services from the providers of their choice.

NCTD Railroad: Report online on the NCTD website at

Sea Animals/Sea Birds: Contact City of Del Mar Lifeguards at 858-755-1556 or the Public Works Department at 858-755-3294.

El Cajon:
In the City of El Cajon, contact Dead Animal Removal (DAR) at 619-390-8204 to have deceased animals removed from roadways.

Dead animal pickup and removal service on public property, public streets and public right-of-way is provided by a private contractor. Please call the Street Section at 760-633-2850 to report a dead animal or for more information about this service.


Dead Animal removal: 619-390-8204

La Mesa:
To report a dead animal, contact La Mesa Police Department Dispatch at 619-667-1400.  

Dead animal pickup and removal service on public property, public streets and public right-of-way is provided by a private contractor. Please call 619-390-8204 to report a dead animal or for more information about this service. 

San Diego:
To request the removal of a dead animal from the public right-of-way, use the city's "Get It Done" app or call Environmental Services at 858-694-7000 from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. This is also the number to use for after-hours messages and emergencies.

The removal of dead animals from county-maintained roads or facilities is a service provided by Singh Group. They can be reached by calling 760-539-0012.

The removal of dead animals on freeways is handled by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

San Marcos:
The Streets Maintenance Division oversees the maintenance of City streets including dead animal removal. (760) 752-7550

To report a dead animal along a road or other public space, call the Public Services hotline at 619-258-4100, ext. 304.

Solana Beach:
Please contact Pestmasters at 760-740-9340.

Unincorporated San Diego County
To request the removal of dead animals from County properties or on County roads call the County of San Diego Animal Services contractor’s 24-hour phone at 760-539-0012.

How do I reclaim my pet?

Please bring a government-issued photo ID and paperwork or a photo identifying the animal. All dogs are required to leave the shelter with a valid rabies vaccine and license. If you have proof of either, please bring that when you come in.

Why put so many resources into animal welfare?

With so many worthy causes in need of support and attention today, this is a question we welcome.

The link between people who harm animals and people who commit violent acts against other people is well documented, and history is full of high-profile examples. You don't have to be an animal lover to be concerned about people's treatment of animals.

San Diego Humane Society not only benefits animals but also our community by fostering the bonds between people and animals, providing educational opportunities and promoting humane treatment of all animals.

Is San Diego Humane Society a vegetarian organization?

Yes. At the heart of San Diego Humane Society's mission is the desire to prevent animal suffering and promote compassion and respect to create a more humane world. 

In keeping with this mission, we are committed to serving a vegetarian menu at all functions for which San Diego Humane Society sets the menu. This policy is a choice the organization has made to honor our commitment to passionately serve animals and the people who love them. San Diego Humane Society respects that these choices are personal and others may not make the same. 

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