Living With Animals: What’s In A Name?

By Hope Bidegainberry on March 23, 2018

Why are we called Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA instead of just Peninsula Humane Society or Peninsula SPCA…? Because that’s the name picked by the folks who founded us in the 1950s. There are 8-10,000 organizations in the U.S. with one, the other, or both SPCA and Humane Society in their name (any term so broadly used can’t be trademarked). To further confuse, there is an American SPCA (ASPCA) and a Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) but neither the PHS/SPCA nor any of the other 10,000 SPCAs and Humane Societies belongs to the groups with the national sounding names. We are all of us, each and every one, a separate nonprofit charitable organization working – sometimes in tandem, sometimes actually in opposition to one another – in the ways we believe best help the animals. And while I hear some cockeyed story now and then, the initials SPCA and HS mean nothing about an organization’s beliefs, programs, or relationship with local government.

Speaking of government, California (and most States) requires local government to operate an Animal Control program (or Animal Care and Control, or Animal Services program – yep, they get confusing too!). Here in San Mateo County, PHS/SPCA performs that service under contract to the County and its 20 Cities but in most other communities the government ACC is separate from the nonprofit SPCA or HS. Had enough?

Well, just one more: the newest addition to the Name Game is Rescue. What is a Rescue? In its best version, a Rescue is a nonprofit dedicated to helping shelters (HS, SPCA or ACC) with animals which that organization might not have the resources to save. In its worst version, a Rescue is a couple of people who schlepp unowned pets to typically wealthy communities, claim they’ve saved them from “death’s door” (which may or may not have any truth to it) and sell them for a considerable profit. Both versions exist. Whether for adoptions, donations, or volunteerism, you want to look well past the name before signing on.

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