Who We Are


The Santa Cruz SPCA provides safe harbor for animals in need and promotes an active humane community through adoption, advocacy, and education.

Serving our community since 1938, we offer programs and resources focused on humane education, spay/neuter awareness and assistance, and adoption and rescue, as well as support for our human community. By keeping animals healthy, happy, and well-homed, we aim to reduce the number of pets that end up in shelters and enhance the quality of life for all.

In the world of animal welfare, no one shelter can do it all. We must work together for the greatest impact in the lives of animals and the humans that care for them. That’s why we believe in, and focus on, collaborative work with dozens of other shelters, rescues, and animal welfare agencies, to rescue and rehabilitate cats and dogs and find them loving homes.

Our staff includes a management team of well-qualified leaders and an extraordinary animal care and adoption staff. We are also proud to sustain the most dedicated group of volunteers any organization could hope for: people who work hard — every day — to care for and enrich the lives of all.

The Santa Cruz SPCA is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the welfare of animals. Our organization, and the work we do, is supported by individual contributions. We do not receive funding from HSUS, ASPCA, nor local, state or federal government entities. Our organization is not affiliated with any other SPCA or Humane Society.

Every time you support the Santa Cruz SPCA—by adopting, donating, volunteering, participating in our programs, or simply spreading the word about the work we do— you support the thousands of dogs, cats, and people we serve. Thank you!

Santa Cruz SPCA  Values & Value Statements

In service to the animals and our mission, we strive each day to live our core values, both realized and aspirational.


Courageous Compassion

Compassion sits at the forefront of all our interactions with both the four- and the two-legged. We view all animals and people as individuals with unique gifts and needs, and approach situations with open-minded optimism. We have the courage to explore new solutions and make difficult decisions when needed.


Continuous Improvement

We are driven to continuously improve our ability to help more animals through process and personal improvement. Strategic decisions are based on research, data, and wisdom gained from past successes and errors. We are both flexible and adaptive in our pursuit of our goals.


Collaborative Spirit

As an active member of the community we serve, we approach every interaction as a chance for collaboration. We intentionally seek animal-centric partnerships and emphasize the role of volunteers in achieving our mission. In building spaces that embrace our community, we welcome potential adopters and offer services that provide ongoing support for the precious relationship between pets and their people.


Responsible Stewardship

Our commitment to serving our community extends far into the future. Our actions today must ensure that we are financially viable and able to provide safe harbor to animals in need, long after our individual stewardships have ended. We foster long-term relationships through integrity and transparency. We invest in our staff and volunteers, and provide resources to educate and nurture the next generations of animal guardians. We are proud of how we care for both the lives and the resources that have been entrusted to us.


Celebrating Differences

People are at the core of animal welfare and the actions that create a better world for our animals. We recognize that our ability to connect with, work alongside, include, and serve a diverse range of people expands our ability to save lives. We strive to cultivate a team that reflects our broader community, and we seek input from others to make our organization and its services accessible to as many pets and people as possible.

The Santa Cruz SPCA was born in 1938 when Dr. Charles Edward Graves, the first veterinarian in Santa Cruz County to treat small animals, donated a piece of land to create a shelter. Dr. Graves’ gift increased the Santa Cruz area’s capacity to help animals, and set a precedent of generous community support for the mission of the Santa Cruz SPCA.

In 1955, the Santa Cruz SPCA was incorporated, with Alva Enberg serving as its first executive director. At this time, the shelter acted as animal control for Santa Cruz County, adopted out homeless animals, assisted pet owners with spay/neuter costs, and covered veterinary fees for injured stray animals.

In 2002, Santa Cruz County started its own animal control agency (the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter) and the Santa Cruz SPCA relinquished its contract for municipal animal control. We continued our mission as a fully independent community shelter and today, the Santa Cruz SPCA continues to focus on animal welfare in the greater Santa Cruz community through cat and dog rescue and adoption, an evolving array of humane education programs, promotion of spay/neuter, a free pet food pantry, no-cost behavior and training classes, and other programs and services that support efforts to save and care for animals.

In 2017, we launched a community fundraising campaign to build a new shelter facility that will enable the Santa Cruz SPCA to have even greater impact as an animal rescue and humane education hub. With a flexible footprint, adaptable play yards, modern animal habitats, space to welcome the public for programs and events, and room for staff and volunteers to do their best work, Santa Cruz will have a community animal shelter that is fit for today and for the future. We invite you to learn more about our new shelter campaign.

While our shelter facility is located at 2601 Chanticleer Avenue (at the very end on the right-hand side), we also maintain a presence across the Santa Cruz area, with our foster home network from La Selva Beach to Bonny Doon, humane education programs in our community schools, and animals from our shelter serving as happy ambassadors whether they’re on a beach romp with volunteers or strolling downtown Santa Cruz wearing an “Adopt Me” vest.

Click here for locations and contact information.

Adoptions – Our exceptional adoption staff will help you find a furry friend whose temperament and energy level match your lifestyle and home environment. We take pride in providing an excellent adoption experience, with careful, thorough counseling and genuine enthusiasm for lasting matches.

Ask the Dog Trainer – Have dog training questions? Looking for advice on canine behavioral challenges? Join our free monthly training discussion group, led by SCSPCA’s ABC Certified Dog Trainer, Shawn Shellard.

Dr Jean’s Senior Friends – This unique fund provides financial help to senior pet owners for veterinary care as well as assists with adoption fees for senior people adopting senior pets.

Heather’s Pet Food Pantry – Ensuring that our community’s companions never go hungry, we distribute more than 6,000 pounds of free pet food annually to economically challenged dog and cat owners.

P.A.W.S. Program – Our youth volunteer program, geared for students ages 7 through 15, allows participants to gain a first-hand understanding of what it means to respect animals by helping with the care, socialization, and training of shelter dogs and cats.

Peaceful Paws Program – This very special program brings the love and comfort of a canine companion to the laps, beds, and arms of seniors in assisted living, therapy, or care facilities. 

Rescue Readers – This program gives young readers a chance to practice and enhance their literacy in the comfortable presence of shelter animals.

School Presentations – We offer a wide range of presentations to support next-generation animal advocates through our Humane Education program. Our visits are perfect for classrooms, assemblies, kindness or career events, and after-school programs.

Summer/Winter Camp – Summer and winter school breaks are ideal times for young people to experience animal rescue and learn animal stewardship — having fun in the process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are you a “no-kill” shelter?

The Santa Cruz SPCA does not use terminology such as “no kill” to describe our own work or the work of other shelters and rescues. Although the SCSPCA will not euthanize any animal for space or time, in circumstances that affect critical quality of life for the animals or grave danger to the public, we will provide a thorough and thoughtful process to determine if we should assist any animal with end of life options. The term “no-kill” tends to carry a divisive connotation, especially among agencies who lack space or funding, or whose communities are inundated with unwanted animals. By assisting those shelters and rescues, in many areas of the county and beyond, the Santa Cruz SPCA ensures that many dogs and cats receive a second chance. We often take in animals that need more time to find a well-matched home, more training opportunities, more behavior assessment and care, and/or additional medical care beyond regular health concerns.

Are all SPCAs and Humane Societies related?

The short answer is ”no.” Did you know that Humane Society and SPCA are just generic descriptive terms, like the word “bank” is in the names US Bank and Bank of America? All humane societies and SPCAs are independent organizations, not connected to each other. It can be confusing! Many people even mistakenly think that the Humane Society of the United States runs all humane societies or that the ASPCA is the mothership for every SPCA. They do not and are not. They are separate and unique entities as well.

While many animal agencies do similar work and provide comparable programs, they often have subtle yet important differences in their focus and scope. Additionally, some humane societies and SPCAs are non-profit organizations that rely on donations, while others hold animal control contracts with the cities or counties around them and are funded through taxpayer dollars. It’s very common to have one of each located in the same city or county, who when working together, can ensure a more humane community.

Are you different from the shelter on 7th Avenue?

Yes! The shelter on 7th Avenue is called the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter. They also have a sister location in Watsonville on Freedom Blvd. People often refer to this shelter as “the SPCA” because, historically, the Santa Cruz SPCA was located in the same location. However, over the years, much has changed and there are now two different animal sheltering organizations in Santa Cruz: The Santa Cruz SPCA and the Santa Cruz Animal Shelter.

The first big difference is how we are funded:

The Santa Cruz SPCA is a private, non-profit organization supported solely by individual contributions, grants, bequests, investments, and proceeds from our retail store. We receive no public funding.

The Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter is publicly funded and operated by the county of Santa Cruz. While they do receive public funding, they also accept donations in order to support many of their programs and services.

The second big difference is what we do:

The Santa Cruz SPCA focuses on rescue, adoption, humane education, and community assistance. We offer a unique sheltering environment for unwanted, abused, neglected, and/or orphaned animals, often taking on those in need of socialization, training, medical care, or simply more time. We place a high priority on providing the community with comprehensive humane education programs for both adults and youth, assistance to low income seniors with veterinary care, and a free food bank available to anyone who needs help feeding their companions – just to name a few special services and programs.

The Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter is tasked primarily with animal control and animal law enforcement, which includes the handling of licensing, lost/found animals, animal abuse, cruelty, and animal related complaints. They employ animal control officers who patrol the county and manage investigations. They also offer important public programming for low cost spay/neuter, adoption, microchipping, education, and more.

Here’s how we work together:

Santa Cruz is lucky to have two animal welfare agencies working hard and working together. The Santa Cruz SPCA and Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter not only join forces when it comes to the care and adoption of animals, but our two organizations also run complimentary humane education and community programs. Where one isn’t, the other is – and vice versa – and when both are needed, we stand together.

Where do you get your animals?

The animals we care for come to us from a variety of sources. The Santa Cruz SPCA takes in animals as owner surrenders when people are no longer able to care for them. We also assist other shelters, locally and beyond, by taking in animals when those shelters reach capacity and desperately need space. Per our adoption policy, we will always accept any animal that was previously adopted from us, no matter the length of time that has passed.

Why do you take animals from outside the county?

While our own county is always our priority, our mission has no borders or city limits. When we have the space and our local shelter is taken care of, we will come to the aid of many other shelters, most of which are in areas where over-crowding occurs on a daily basis.

Who runs your organization?

The animals generally run the show! However, the Santa Cruz SPCA is governed by a Board of Directors and run by the Executive Director and management team.

Are all of the staff volunteers?

While we rely heavily on volunteers to complete the work we do, we also employ a small group of paid staff members who wear many hats and work tirelessly for the animals.

Shelter Location

2601 Chanticleer Ave.

Santa Cruz, CA 95065

(P) 831-465-5000 (F) 831-479-8530


Hours of Operation

Mon & Tues - CLOSED

Animal Browsing Wed to Sun 11am - 5pm

*PET FOOD PANTRY - Fridays 1:00pm - 3:00pm

The Santa Cruz SPCA is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the welfare of animals. We receive no government funding, and depend solely on financial support from our friends. Our organization is not affiliated with any other SPCA or Humane Society.

Tax ID: 94-6171565

© 2017 Santa Cruz SPCA