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A Brighter Future for San Francisco’s Animals

Isn’t it a funny thing, these families we make for ourselves? Adopting a pet enriches one’s life in so many ways — giving a homeless animal a safe home and receiving their love and trust is one of the best gifts. I first came into SFACC because of a pup I fell in love with through the website. Jackson stole my heart, and after getting permission from my landlord, he stole my couch and bed. too. This was almost 12 years ago, and I’ve since lost him and gained three more rescue pups, all with different stories and backgrounds. What an amazing life-changing experience. I felt it with Jackson, and in fact he probably taught me about this incredible gift. I felt it with Wes. I felt it with Barnaby. I felt it with our foster-fail Hazel.

Having a welcoming place to adopt and get services is so important, and as an adopter, I couldn’t be more proud of the work of SFACC. Last year, SFACC took in 9,422 animals of all species (including wildlife), health conditions, and behavior, and had an astonishing live release rate of 92 percent for dogs and cats, which puts SFACC in the general category of a “no-kill” shelter.

In May 2019, San Francisco Animal Care & Control, or SFACC, broke ground on a new facility to serve the animals and residents of San Francisco. The current building was constructed as a warehouse in 1931 and remodeled as the SF municipal animal shelter in 1989. Other than changes in the veterinary room, the building has not been altered since. But standards of animal care have changed dramatically in 30 years, as has the role animals play in our lives. The new shelter will double the space that all animals have to live and play in. It will include more public and staff meeting areas, increase the play/exercise areas from one to four, and have improved ventilation and adequate separation for sick animals, which is lacking in the current building.

The additional space and modernized equipment will help the staff and volunteers take better care of the animals, and the seismically safe building will be able to function off the grid for three days, with a backup generator and water supply. The rooftop garden is an exciting feature of the new building’s design. Using every available square foot of the structure, the roof will have two dog play yards, a rabbit play area, and enclosures for staff dogs. Our new building will allow us to work better and more efficiently to rescue, rehabilitate, and reunite animals with their guardians or find them new homes.

The city is covering most of the costs, as it does for the current shelter, but the new shelter needs certain enhancements to become the world-class resource we envision, like a state-of-the-art dental suite and welcoming areas for public education and adoption. “The ability to provide dental care will make it easier for our older cats to find new homes. Adopting a cat and immediately making a trip to the vet for a $1,000 dental cleaning/extraction can be a hardship and obstacle to adoption,” said SFACC Director Virginia Donohue. These enhancements are where you, the members of our animal-loving community, can invest in making this vision a reality.

Friends of San Francisco Animal Care & Control, also known as Friends, the 501(c)3 affiliate of SFACC, is the only organization dedicated to raising funds to support SFACC programs, services, and supplies that the city budget does not cover. This includes a behavior and training program, quarterly microchip/rabies vaccine clinics, annual micro-grants to adoption partners, outreach efforts, and toys and treats for the animals.

Contributions from the community are not only a symbol of the community’s passion for the animals and residents of San Francisco, but are also an essential part of both the completion of the building and sustaining SFACC’s ongoing programs. Your donation will help us to do what it takes to care for these animals. Our goal is to create a safe environment for all animals in San Francisco and deliver animal welfare programs that educate and serve our community. With your help — whether through a gift or by volunteering — we can save the lives of more of the city’s homeless, injured, lost, abandoned, domestic, and wild animals. To learn how the new shelter will improve the lives of animals at SFACC and how you can participate directly in this goal, please visit our website, watch this video, or email us at

Lauren Weston is the chair of Friends of SFACC, the nonprofit affiliate of SFACC that raises funds for SFACC needs.

SZ-ACC Front Elevation

Caption: The new SFACC facility will be a vast improvement for animals.

Main article photo by: Photos courtesy SFACC