RASKC commends Seattle Humane, one of the region’s leaders in animal adoption, education, and welfare. With about 125 full- and part-time employees and more than 1,100 volunteers, this outstanding organization is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year!

Throughout their history, Seattle Humane has met the changing needs of the community. Seattle Humane is now more than just a shelter for adoptable animals – they are evolving into a resource hub that provides low- or no-cost veterinary services; temporary foster care; food, medicine, toys, and supplies for folks who can’t afford them for their pets; education programs that are cultivating the next generation of responsible pet parents and animal advocates; and an array of community programs that provide support at both ends of the leash.

RASKC recently interviewed Seattle Humane’s Chief Executive Officer Christopher Ross.

How would you describe the mission of Seattle Humane?

Our mission is to promote the human-animal bond by saving and serving pets in need, regardless of age, ability, circumstance, or geography. Our work ensures that pets are supported throughout their lifetime. We continue to adapt to deliver equitable access to care for pets and families from all walks of life.

What values are important to Seattle Humane?

Seattle Humane’s values are:

  • Compassion – We believe all people and all companion animals deserve love and care. We trust that people want to do best by their pets.
  • Accessibility – We are committed to serving as a resource to our community through educational opportunities, veterinary services, and outreach.
  • Innovation – We strive to anticipate the changing needs of people and their pets, our organization, and the evolving field of animal welfare. We create a supportive environment that promotes curiosity, learning, progress, and collaboration.
  • Responsibility – We share a commitment to Seattle Humane’s reputation, stewardship, and health as an organization.
  • Teamwork – We engage with each other and the community in a genuine way, fostering respect, honesty, transparency, support, and care.

The Five Freedoms are also a huge focal point for us in terms of animal welfare and how we perform our role as a shelter. All animals should have:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst
  • Freedom from discomfort
  • Freedom from pain, injury, or disease
  • Freedom to express normal behavior
  • Freedom from fear and distress

What are some of your organization’s achievements that you’re most proud of?

I am so proud of how Seattle Humane met the moment head on and adapted our services during COVID. We saw a need in the community – folks were struggling to keep their pets due to financial hardship, geographic displacement, and other stresses caused by the pandemic. Research shows that there is an overwhelming benefit to your mental health to have the unconditional love of a companion animal and that was even more important when folks were isolated because of the pandemic. We are grateful that there were not any widespread challenges with COVID cases at Seattle Humane and that all of our staff are now vaccinated. We were so happy that we were able to invite our volunteers back to campus in June 2021, and reopened to the public a month later, after having provided curbside adoptions, veterinary services, and intake for more than a year.

I’m also incredibly proud of the Strategic Vision we’ve presented as our blueprint for the next five years – we are building on our strengths and really stretching the boundaries of how an animal shelter can support pets in the community. Our goal is to lift the entire animal welfare community up together to create the best possible world for pets.

What would you most like the public to know about your organization?

​We want people to know that we’re here to help and that our programs and services go well beyond adoptions. While adoptions will always be the core function of what we do, Seattle Humane is also a place for people to seek support keeping their pets happy and healthy. Shelters are unavoidably stressful environments, so it’s best to keep pets with the people who love them whenever possible. We continue to build out these programs and services, and we want to reach as many people as possible, particularly those in underserved and marginalized communities here in the Puget Sound region.

Please describe your volunteer program.

Volunteers are wonderful and essential supporters of any nonprofit, and we are lucky to have volunteers represented in almost every department at Seattle Humane. They work hands-on at the shelter, support our administrative teams, and are out in the community connecting clients and partner organizations with Seattle Humane’s services, such as our Pet Food Bank and Lifesaver Rescue programs. Hundreds more volunteers serve as fosters and provide loving homes as pets await adoption, as well as owned pets needing temporary care through our SPOT (Supporting Pet Owners in Transition) program. 

Each department within Seattle Humane has a designated staff captain, who is responsible for coordinating and engaging the volunteers in their department. They work together with volunteer leads, who are experienced volunteers that assist with training and coordinating their volunteer teams. We also have a Volunteer Services department, who oversees shelter-wide volunteer engagement, communication, and policies.

What kind of help would Seattle Humane most like from the public?

We are so grateful for the generous support from our donors and volunteers, who we affectionately call our Rescue Squad! We could not do our work without their contribution of time, financial support, and compassion. And we rely on our community partners and the other shelters who are essential to fulfilling our mission to save and serve pets in need. We know that being at the shelter is stressful for many pets, and we are looking to grow our network of foster parents. The hardest foster parents to find are those with dog experience and no dogs of their own to support our dog-reactive dogs.

What is Seattle Humane’s vision for the future?

Our five-year strategic vision invites our community to join us in creating a world where pets have equitable access to care and everyone can enjoy the human-animal bond. The five core pillars of our vision include:

  • Providing affordable access to veterinary care
  • Ensuring availability of healthy, adoptable pets in our region
  • Transforming our Bellevue campus into a pet-centric community center
  • Advocating for pets and their people
  • Investing in the people that power Seattle Humane 

We invite the community to be part of this journey! Together our staff, volunteers, supporters, and advocates can help us create a better world for pets and their people.

How would you describe the relationship between Seattle Humane and RASKC?

RASKC is a great partner to Seattle Humane, always helpful to us with any needs we may have. They are easy to communicate with and we really appreciate their promptness when it comes to picking up stray pets from Seattle Humane. We love the RASKC team!

RASKC is one of our closest shelter partners in the region, and often we work with them when folks accidentally bring stray pets into Seattle Humane. We are not the area’s location for municipal animal control, but people don’t always realize that and occasionally we have animals dropped off here. We are grateful that RASKC is quick to respond and bring the stray animal to their facility. RASKC also supports us with immediate needs for local transfer pets. And lastly, we work closely with RASKC when it comes to community outreach needs, such as pet food distribution/warehousing and supporting pet owners with rehoming options.

Is your organization connected to anyone who is famous?  

We recently rediscovered a connection to Betty White, who had been our special guest during Seattle Humane’s third annual Tuxes & Tails fundraising gala in 1992. The Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, our partner in rotating fourth-year students through our Schuler Family Medical Center, named her an honorary alumna in 2011.

We also receive support from former Sounders FC player (and now brand ambassador) Brad Evans and other athletes through his Contrib nonprofit. Actors Katee Sackhoff, Tricia Helfer, Johnathan Fernandez, and Rekha Sharma, as well as local radio host Bender at 95.7 The Jet, are also riding to support us again during the 2022 Tulip Ride in August!

Are there any other “fun facts” that you might like to share about Seattle Humane?

As we celebrate our 125th Anniversary, here are some interesting facts from our historical archives!

  • We changed our name to the King County Humane Society in 1908, and then changed our name again in 1967. Five years later, King County and the City of Seattle created their own animal control agencies, in 1972. We moved to our current location in Bellevue that same year and expanded services.
  • We’ve been offering low- and no-cost spay and neuter services since 1977.
  • Seattle Humane was awarded “Five Stars” from the American Humane Association through its national voluntary accreditation program in 1985. We continued to receive the highest rating each year until the program was discontinued in 1993.