This list includes just some of the big moments in the history of dog rescue and continues to be updated. Have a dog adoption historical moment to add? Just email Dogster at email@example.com the information for consideration of inclusion.
Created by Arden Moore and continuously updated by Dogster.com.
1866: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) begins its mission.
1869: First U.S. animal shelter created by Caroline Earl White along with other female animal activists opened as The Women’s Branch of the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals in Philadelphia. Today, it is called the Women’s Animal Center, renamed from the Women’s Humane Society.
1910: A group led by Jean Milne Gower creates the Denver Dumb Friends League, now one of the largest and oldest animal shelters west of the Mississippi River.
1944: The North Shore Animal League and Dog Protective Association, Inc. rescuing homeless animals in Long Island and dedicating itself to the No-Kill philosophy is founded. Now called the North Shore Animal League, the nonprofit’s programs and initiatives have majorly impacted dog rescue, adoption and awareness, greatly lowering U.S. pet euthanasia numbers. More than 1.1 million dogs, cats, puppies and kittens have been saved since its founding, and today it places 18,000 pets on average in loving homes each year. Two impactive historical dates to note: In 1991, the NSALA’s Humane Relocation Program commences with weekly transports from overcrowded municipal shelters and commercial breeding facilities across the country to the safety of its campus. In 1993, its SpayUSA referral service — the first of its kind — premieres, connecting people nationwide to low cost, quality spay and neuter services for their pets.1995 first annual Pet Adoptathon conducted. Today it’s the Global Pet Adoptathon, reaching around the world and saving tens of thousands. Two unique annual events to note: The Global Pet Adoptathon (first conducted in 1995), reaches around the world annually to save tens of thousands of pets’ lives. Started in 2001, The Tour For Life sends Animal League America’s Mobile Rescue Units on the road, using the units and expertise to help shelters across the country save more animals.
1973: The ASPCA recognizes the need to control pet population and begins its campaign to spay and neuter adopted dogs and cats.
1976: Richard (Rich) Avanzino, considered the “father” of No-Kill movement, becomes the president of the San Francisco SPCA through 1999. During his tenure, the Society and the County of San Francisco worked together to become the first county in the nation to offer an adoption guarantee for every healthy and treatable shelter dog and cat, inspiring others to do so too. Rich later becomes President and then Strategic Advisor for the animal welfare organization Maddie’s Fund. Dogster (formerly Dog Fancy) named Rich to our list of 45 People Who Have Changed the Dog World.
In March 2015, Rich was named to Dog Fancy’s list of “45 People Who Have Changed the Dog World” and was awarded the Assisi Award by the New Zealand Companion Animal Council in 2014. This award, named in honor of St Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Animals, is an acknowledgement by the NZ Companion Animal Council of the international achievements of those whose goals echo the principles of excellence in animal welfare.
As one of the no-kill movement’s most articulate spokespeople, Rich has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, People magazine, Parade Magazine, ABC’s 20/20 and “Person of the Week”on the ABC Nightly News.
He received a doctor of pharmacy degree from the University of California Medical Center, San Francisco, and has a law degree from the University of California at Davis.
1984: Best Friends sanctuary for homeless and special-needs animals created in Southern Utah, advocating the importance of no-kill. Today, along with a national network of shelters, working toward goal of No-Kill 2025.
1993: The ASPCA is the first national animal-protection group to start implanting microchips for identification in its shelter animals up for adoption.
1994: Maddie’s Fund is created in Pleasanton, California, by Dave and Cheryl Duffield in memory of their dog Maddie (1987-1997), and the foundation has awarded about $250 million in grants for shelters and foster care groups. This California-based nonprofit invests resources toward “keeping pets and people together, creating a safety net of care for animals in need and operating within a culture of inclusiveness and humility”.
1996: Betsy Banks Saul and Jared Saul created the website Petfinder as a way to match adoptable pets in animal shelters with people living in and around New Jersey. In 2000, Petfinder became national and in 2013, it joined Nestle Purina. Petfinder ranks as the largest pet website on the internet with more than 25 million pet adoptions.
1998: SF SFPCA’s Maddie’s Pet Adoption Center opens, revolutionizing animal sheltering by housing adoptable dogs and cats in home-like settings and not cages, which sets a new standard of sheltering practices .
2009: The Shelter Pet Project launches in September. Created by the Advertising Council, Maddie’s Fund and The Humane Society of the United States, it urged people looking for a new pet to make shelters and rescue groups their first choice for adoption. The campaign played out on billboards, bus shelters, websites, TV and radio.
2013: ASPCA launches ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center pilot program to provide behavioral rehabilitation for severely fearful, unadoptable dogs in New Jersey. Today, the program has expanded and is housed in a permanent facility in North Carolina.
2014: John Hussey, a National Football League referee and animal advocate, creates Cuddly.com. This Santa Monica, California-based company has conducted more than 7,000 campaigns that have raised more than $20 million in donations to help more than 2,100 animal shelter and rescue groups.
2014: Stray and abandoned dogs get an international media spotlight turned on them during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games due to the coverage of homeless dogs in Sochi. This led to the creation of the Sochi Dogs and the Sochi Dogs Sanctuary, which promotes spay/neuter programs and getting Russian dogs off the streets and into homes around the world.
2020: TIME magazine names rescue animals as its 2020 Pet of the Year. During the 2020 coronavirus pandemic the U.S. national adoption rate spikes, with some animal shelters and rescues being emptied of adoptable pets.
Arden Moore, The Pet Health and Safety Coach™, is a pet behavior consultant, master certified pet first aid instructor, author and host of the Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio. Learn more at ardenmoore.com.