The Santa Barbara Humane Society (SBHS) is at a crossroads. It can continue to hoard $25,000,000 in assets, banking revenue surpluses ($4.7 million in 2015, according to its Form 990), caretaking empty buildings on its five-acre campus while resisting new programs — or it can step into the modern age of animal sheltering and make a world of difference for thousands of animals.
What’s the first step? Bring in a new executive director with vision and serious animal welfare chops. We’ve seen this trend in our region: at Ventura County Animal Services, Woods Humane in San Luis Obispo, and the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society. Angela Rockwell at ASAP (Animal Shelter Assistance Program) has changed the nature of animal rescue in our community, with innovative programs — indeed, the SBHS was sending cats to overcrowded ASAP for help rather than the reverse! With the SBHS’s enormous resources and the right leadership, it could be that kind of creative resource and regional leader in sheltering, humane education, spay-neuter outreach, and more.
The buildings at the SBHS need more than a new coat of paint: They need the kind of rebuild that has made Santa Maria’s humane society the envy of the region. SBHS has the money; under new leadership, it could be well spent to serve so many more animals well.
The animal rescue community in Santa Barbara has been waiting for decades for this moment. We fervently hope that the SBHS Board will rise to meet it.