The Future of Animal Welfare

Category: Coalition Corner, Gary's Column, Winter 2018 598 0

San Diego Humane Society President and CEO Gary Weitzman reflects on the past five years

Dr. Gary Weitzman
Dr. Gary Weitzman
By Christina Orlovsky Page

Ask Gary Weitzman, DVM, president and CEO of San Diego Humane Society, where his love of animals comes from and his answer is simple: “I can honestly say that I was born this way. Since early childhood, I have thought that animals are the most important things in the world. They make you realize that life isn’t just about you, and I truly cannot understand a world without them.” That explains why he chose a career devoted to the advancement of animal welfare—and why every day, he’s thankful it brought him to San Diego Humane Society.

“Five years ago, I came from Washington, DC for the sole reason of running this shelter,” he recalls. “SDHS has always been a role model of what an outstanding animal welfare organization can be, and I saw that there were tools here to really make a difference—great people and great resources and a lot of ways to make an impact. Still, at the time, SDHS was known as a boutique adoption center, and I was struck by the fact that there weren’t more animals here. I wanted to change that—to do amazing things.”

Thankfully, Weitzman has spent his tenure surrounded by dedicated staff and volunteers who are equally committed to doing amazing things: inspiring compassion and ensuring every animal they serve is safe, happy, healthy and adopted.

“I’ve never in my life had the privilege of working with people of this caliber and this quality,” he says, “and it’s because of them that SDHS has achieved so much in the past five years.”

Since 2012, SDHS has expanded its reach into North County and beyond. It has launched new programs and partnerships to care for wildlife and help people in need keep their pets. It’s transitioned from a limited-admission shelter to an open one, quintupled the number of animals in its system and reached the epic milestone of zero euthanasia for healthy animals five years ahead of schedule.

Now SDHS is preparing for its biggest change yet: potentially taking on the animal welfare responsibilities of six additional cities, which means increasing the animals served from 30,000 to 60,000 and servicing every corner of San Diego County. “With this undertaking, we’re pledging to be the stewards of animal welfare as a whole in San Diego,” Weitzman says. “It’s a giant task, but I know that thanks to the support of the staff, volunteers, donors and the San Diego pet community, we are up to the challenge.”

Here’s to the next five years!


5 Years of Growth at SDHS


Companion and wild animals received into our care last year, a 248 percent increase from 7,440 in 2012.


Jump in companion animal adoptions, from 4,882 in 2012 to 12,037 in 2017.


Spays and neuters performed in 2017, up 167 percent from 6,390 in 2012.


Animals who received specialized care in our Behavior Center in 2017.


Calls for Humane Law Enforcement service


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