Post Office Box 2098, El Cerrito, California 94530
Telephone: 510.525.2744 Facsimile: 510.525.2772

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State Humane Association of California - About Us

About Us



Board of Directors

Executive Director

Difference between SHAC and HSUS/ASPCA
Thomas A. Little Award of Excellence



Board of Directors

Madeline Bernstein

Leilani Fratis
Placer SPCA

Marcia Mayeda
County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control

Dan DeSousa
County of San Diego Animal Services

Nancy McKenney
Marin Humane

Melanie Sadek
Executive Director
Valley Humane Society

Jill Tucker
Executive Director
Woods Humane Society


Renee Harris
Top2Cats Consulting

Executive Director

Erica Gaudet Hughes


First State Humane Convention (1909)

1940's California Humane Laws Handbook

Annual Convention, Long Beach - 1930

The State Humane Association of California (SHAC) was founded in 1909 to represent local humane organizations with matters of concern to all, but beyond the resources of any one organization or agency. Throughout the 1900s, SHAC assisted individuals establishing private humane organizations, consulted with local officials and architects to construct new animal shelter facilities, advised staff and board members of humane organizations and animal shelters on policies and services, and worked to enact pro-animal legislation.

SHAC's mission is to lead, empower and strengthen its members through education, training, advocacy, and networking, while serving as the collective voice for California's humane societies, SPCAs, and animal care and control agencies.

SHAC is the original publisher of the California Animal Laws Handbook and continues to offer this unique resource for animal-welfare professionals, law enforcement officials, and others interested in or working with animal-related legal issues.  The Handbook is a compilation of key California codes and regulations pertaining to animals and is updated each year with new laws.

Since 1980, SHAC has sponsored the Animal Law Enforcement Training Academy for humane and animal-control officers throughout the state.  We offer both a Basic and Advanced course, which are intended to satisfy appointment and re-appointment training requirements for California humane officers and to provide essential training for humane and animal-control officers working in the field.

SHAC also organizes the annual California Animal Care Conference together with the California Animal Control Directors Association.  The Conference brings together animal-welfare and veterinary professionals from throughout the state to attend educational workshops on Management, Behavior & Training, Shelter Services, Community Outreach, Field Services, and Shelter Medicine.

Currently, SHAC serves nearly 150 humane societies, SPCAs, city and county animal care and control agencies, and other animal-welfare organizations throughout California.  We offer assistance to our members through education, training, and legislation to promote the inherent value of animals through the elimination of cruelty, neglect, and exploitation.

How is SHAC different from HSUS and the ASPCA?

While SHAC's interests often overlap with those of HSUS and ASPCA, they are separate and distinct organizations with different missions.

  • SHAC represents the collective voice of California's humane societies and SPCAs.
  • In contrast, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) are national organizations headquartered in Washington D.C. and New York, respectively, that advance a national agenda.
  • ASPCA operates one companion-animal shelter in New York City and HSUS does not operate any companion-animal shelters.
  • ASPCA and HSUS are not umbrella, parent, or sister organizations to local humane societies and SPCAs, contrary to the conclusion many reach based on the inclusion of "United States" in HSUS's name and "American" in ASPCA's name.
  • While ASPCA and HSUS may give individual shelters funding from time to time for particular projects, ASPCA and HSUS do not regularly fund California's shelters and are not involved in their management or operations.

Often, the interests of SHAC and its humane societies and SPCAs are coextensive and SHAC endeavors to work HSUS and ASPCA when it promotes the collective good of California's shelters such as co-sponsoring California Assembly or Senate bills.

Only SHAC promotes an agenda that is exclusively based on the needs and interests of California's shelters. From time to time, the interests of SHAC and those of HSUS and ASPCA may not be parallel. Therefore, it is important to look to SHAC as the collective voice of California's humane community.


Thomas A. Little Award of Excellence

Thomas LittleThomas A. Little served as director of Haven Humane Society from 1980 to 2002 and as a longstanding board member of the State Humane Association of California. He is greatly respected by directors of humane societies and SPCAs throughout California. Haven Humane Society remembers him as the man who guided the Society through some of its most difficult developmental stages. He is completely dedicated to the relief of animal suffering and prevention of animal cruelty and served as a strong leader in his field.

Little began his career in animal welfare in Vernal, Utah in 1970 when he joined the Board of Directors of the Humane Society of Utah. He was soon encouraged to take the job of Executive Director, serving in that capacity from 1972 to 1975. Little moved to Monterey, California, in 1975 when he accepted the job of director of the Monterey County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (later renamed the SPCA for Monterey County).

In 1978 he became the Executive Director of the Nevada Humane Society and moved to Sparks, Nevada. Little initiated many new programs at the Nevada Humane Society as well as the construction of a new facility. He was then recruited by the Board of Directors of Haven Humane Society in 1980. He moved to Redding, California and became Executive Director of Haven Humane. Little carefully guided the Society through many difficulties while expanding their services and locating a new shelter. The city of Redding contracted with the Society in 1982 to provide animal regulation services and Little oversaw construction of the Society's Animal Welfare Center, which was completed in 1987. He retired from the Haven Humane Society in 2002.

Thomas A. Little Award of Excellence presented by SHAC

2003 - Robert Timone, former Haven Humane Society Executive Director and former SHAC board member

2007 – Gary Templin, former East Bay SPCA Executive Director and former SHAC board member

2011 – Christine Benninger, former Humane Society Silicon Valley Executive Director and former SHAC board member


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Each of the SPCAs and humane societies in the United States is individually incorporated and operated. They are not directly affiliated with each other or with any national groups, such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

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