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The Women’s Humane Society was founded on April 14, 1869 by Caroline Earle White who created the First Animal Shelter and First Animal Adoptions Program in the country.

According to The Women’s Humane Society’s First Annual Report dated April 1870:

During the first year of operation, The Society (Then the Women’s Pennsylvania SPCA) resolved with the consent of the honorable Mayor of the City of Philadelphia, to found a “temporary home for dogs” where all animals could be taken and kept for a short time; and in deference to those who did not like the word “home” they concluded to name it “Shelter for Dogs and Other Animals”.

The Society believed in a humane system and wanted to decrease the number of animals running in the streets and address the mistreatment of animals. During our first year, we petitioned the Mayor of Philadelphia and took over operation of the City’s dog pound. The Society ran it as an animal shelter and created the concept of re-homing animals thereby establishing the Nation’s first animal shelter and formal adoptions program. With the Women’s Humane Society in control many of the cruel practices were stopped and a new attitude about dog pounds developed.

Mrs. White also co-founded The Pennsylvania SPCA at a time when women did not even have the right to vote. During that time, the mistreatment of horses in the city prompted Mrs. White to join forces with other Philadelphians to improve conditions for dogs, horses, and other small animals. They established many horse and dog drinking fountains and some still exist today.  

In 1988, our name was officially changed to the “Women’s Humane Society.”

We’re proud to continue the legacy of our founders and our commitment to the humane treatment of animals throughout our region.