Dog on a lease looking at camera
Dogs and their owners await instructions during a training class at Santa Barbara Humane Credit: Santa Barbara Humane photo

Noozhawk’s Four-Legged Friends and More Guide is officially here! We have sniffed out local businesses that best cater to the needs, health, comfort, training, exercise, and general welfare of our furry companions!

To provide a closer look at the pet establishments in Santa Barbara County, Noozhawk has conducted a series of interviews with representatives of local businesses for this year’s Four-Legged Friends and More Guide that will be sure to have your tail wagging.

In this interview, Noozhawk spoke with Kerri Burns, CEO of Santa Barbara Humane, to learn more about the services they offer to our four-legged friends in our community.

Santa Barbara Humane

Question: What is the name of your business or practice?

Answer: Santa Barbara Humane.

Q: What is the mission behind your business?

A: To be champions for animals and the people who love them.

Q: What types of animals does your business cater to?

A: Cats and Dogs.

Q: Can you describe the services or products your business offers?

A: With campuses in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria, Santa Barbara Humane provides pet adoptions, low-cost veterinary care, and affordable and humane dog training classes.

Q: How long have you been in this industry?

A: 24 years (but SB Humane has been assisting animals for over 136 years)!

Q: What makes your business unique?

A: Santa Barbara Humane operates campuses in Santa Barbara & Santa Maria, both offering animal sheltering and adoption, low-cost veterinary services, affordable dog training classes, and volunteer opportunities.

We accept more owner-surrendered animals than any other organization in the County plus we transfer in animals from overcrowded shelters. We have great animals available for adoption, offer top-notch client service, and are committed to helping everyone in need.

Marmalade,a tortiseshell cat who was adopted from Santa Barbara Humane ( Santa Barbara Humane photo)

Q: What training, education and experience do you and your staff have?

A: I’ve been in the animal welfare industry for over 20 years directing shelters and for a time, leading a national disaster response team helping animals during natural disasters and large-scale rescues. Our leadership team has over 100 years of combined experience in animal welfare.

Dr. Katie Marrie, our Chief Veterinary Officer, has her DVM and is one of a handful of veterinarians in the country with a Master’s Degree in Shelter Medicine. Our Manager of Animal Behavior holds a Masters in Physical Anthropology with an emphasis in animal behavior and is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA). Other experienced staff includes Registered Veterinary Technicians, and our newest shelter director is a Certified Animal Control Officer.

All SBH employees complete FearFree Shelter or Clinic Certification, attend workshops throughout the year, and we have a work culture that supports professional and personal growth.

Q: How do you manage behavioral problems?

A: As a Socially Conscious Shelter, we take a case management approach to ensure we meet the medical and behavioral needs of the animals. Much like a hospital setting, we perform rounds each day with staff from the Veterinary, behavior, and animal care teams coming together to physically walk through the shelter and look at each animal individually. During Rounds we determine if an animal is on the right pathway and identify any roadblocks, such as behavior concerns, that may be preventing it from becoming adoptable or getting adopted. We manage behaviors through humane training, anti-anxiety medication, enrichment, exercise, and nurturing.

Q: Do you work with all breeds/ age groups?

A: Yes.

Q: What method of training do you use? (i.e. positive reinforcement, electronic training, clicker training, training equipment etc.)

A: Our behavior team is trained and experienced in modern, humane training methods. We are 100 percent committed to reward-based, positive reinforcement training without the use of choke, shock, or pinch collars.

Q: What do you do if a pet is aggressive towards you, your staff, or other animals?

A: When an animal has acted in an aggressive manner, our Outcome Evaluation Team, composed of veterinarians, RVTs, dog trainers, and shelter leadership, meet to review the incident and the animal’s case history.

We take a holistic and individualized approach to each situation. We may first determine if the animal is healthy and pain-free since some behaviors can stem from medical conditions. We evaluate the level of aggression, and if a human or animal injury was involved, we discuss the severity and intent behind the response. Observed behaviors and prior history are explored to determine if there is a pattern of behavior.

We then determine the best, safest, and most humane pathway which may include anti-anxiety medication, a training plan, transfer to another campus or foster care. Santa Barbara Humane is a Socially Conscious Shelter, and one of the tenets of socially conscious sheltering is to alleviate suffering and make responsible euthanasia decisions. If our team of trained professionals feels that the animal is a danger to people or other animals, we will perform humane euthanasia. That said, we have a live release rate of 96%, which is one of the highest in the nation.

Q: What advice would you give to a new pet owner?

A: Practice empathy for what this animal has gone through and give them time to transition to their new life. So often animals are returned because they didn’t live up to the adopter’s expectations within the first few days. But these cats and dogs have been through a lot, sometimes living on the streets or coming from long stays at overcrowded shelters. They want the adoption to work as much as you do, but they need time to learn the house rules, meet resident pets, and bond to you.

There is a 3:3:3 rule: in the first 3 days the animal will feel overwhelmed, after 3 weeks they will be settling in, and they won’t truly feel comfortable until 3 months in the home.  

Q: Are you currently accepting new clients?

A: Yes! Our Santa Barbara and Santa Maria campuses are open for walk-in adoptions from 12-4:30 PM daily except on Wednesdays. We offer veterinary services seven days a week and appointments can be made online so you can choose a day and time that works for you. Our fun and positive dog training classes run weeknights and weekends and range from puppy class to ‘Reactive Rover’. You can learn more, make a clinic appointment, and register for dog training class at

Q: Can you name a few common reasons animals end up in your shelter?

A: A majority of the animals that come to Santa Barbara Humane are either transferred in from an overcrowded and underserved shelter or are surrendered by their owners. Animals are surrendered for a variety of different reasons, but studies have shown that in many cases, the animal and human simply aren’t bonded. Studies have also shown that visiting a veterinarian or attending a dog training class even one time can strengthen the human-animal bond. That’s why our donor-supported Safety Net services are so critical to our mission and the role we play in the community.

Q: Do you rehome animals no longer able to live with their owners?

A: Yes, but more importantly we first work with the owner to explore how we can keep the family together by providing low-cost or free veterinary treatment, free dog training classes or private consultations, pet food and supplies, and even emergency boarding for temporary situations. If someone determines they must surrender their pet, they are treated with empathy and respect because we know it’s a difficult decision. We provide assistance regardless of the animal’s breed, age, health, or behavior and animals are admitted by-appointment to ensure we can care for the animals we’ve already committed to and have resources for the new arrival. 

Q: How do you help make your client feel at ease leaving their pet in your care?

A: We have a robust team of animal-loving experts who come to work every day committed to providing the best care possible to our shelter animals and the owned pets who walk through our doors.  Our commitment is to always do what is best for the animal. 

We understand that each animal and each pet owner is unique, and our personalized and individualized interactions with clients help them fully understand what is happening and that the door is always open for further communication and transparency. 

A cat receives care at Santa Barbara Humane’s veterinary clinic ( Santa Barbara Humane photo)

Q: Can you describe the process to adopt an animal at your shelter?

A: We take a conversational approach to adoptions to help match animals to new families. There’s no appointment, application, or waiting period. Instead, you’ll meet with a counselor who helps you identify the qualities and characteristics in a pet that will best suit your lifestyle and interests. We’ve got everything from running buddies to couch potatoes, lap cats to working cats.

Of course all animals are already spayed or neutered, microchipped, treated for fleas, and up-to-date on their vaccines. Dogs are also heartworm tested and cats are tested for Feline Leukemia/FIV. We have great retail centers at each location so you can stock up on supplies and toys before you head home.  

Q: Are you a nonprofit?

A: Santa Barbara Humane is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. We are not affiliated with or funded by the Humane Society of the United States or the ASPCA, we do not receive any state or county funds,  so we rely on local giving to ensure all dogs and cats get the support they need. Santa Barbara Humane is a separate organization from Santa Barbara County Animal Services, which is a publicly-funded law enforcement agency. 

Q: How do you keep the public informed about your business or service(s)?

A: Our website,, Instagram account (@sbhumane), and Facebook page (SBHumane) are all updated frequently with news and information about our services. Anyone interested in keeping up to date about what is happening at Santa Barbara Humane can also sign up for our newsletter on our website. 

Q: What is the typical cost of your service(s) or product(s)? Do you offer any payment plans or discounts?

A: Adoption fees vary based on the species and age of the animal you are adopting. We have several animal adoption promotions throughout the year, where adoption fees are reduced or waived entirely. Our already affordable training and low-cost veterinary services have options for financial assistance, which is approached on a case-by-case basis. Our website has a full breakdown of pricing for adoptions, dog training, and veterinary services. 

Q: What is one fun fact about your business?

A: Santa Barbara Humane was founded in 1887, making us one of the oldest animal welfare organizations in the country.

Q: Is there anything you would like to tell our readers that was not mentioned above?

A: Santa Barbara Humane is not your typical shelter. Our campuses are bright and welcoming with animals living comfortably and for some, getting the best care they’ve ever received. When you visit us you’ll find staff who are non-judgemental, solution-focused, and empowered to work with you whether it’s finding a new kitten to bring home, accessing veterinary care for your own pet, or providing emergency assistance during a crisis. We want the community to know we are a local resource that relies on local support and we invite all animals to get involved.

On a celebratory note, Santa Barbara Humane is having our first gala on September 9 at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort. You can learn more about the gala at

Click here to learn more about Santa Barbara Humane.