The San Francisco SPCA: of Changes & Chihuahuas


Mouse is a teacup-sized Chihuahua who arrived on the doorstep of The San Francisco SPCA with canine parvovirus, one of the most common lethal viruses known to affect dogs.

This adorable pup was treated by the veterinary team at the Leanne B. Roberts Animal Care Center and successfully fought the disease.  His care was covered through The SF/SPCA’s Cinderella Fund, which supports the sickest shelter animals that need special medical care or surgery. He fully recovered and is now enjoying life in a new, loving home.

Mouse’s is just one of countless stories with a happy ending that I experienced at the SF/SPCA in 2009.  It’s also a great example of the positive effect our staff, volunteers, and supporters have had on the lives of thousands of dogs and cats and their new families. Although it was a difficult year at times, the SF/SPCA has new momentum as we enter 2010.  

Like many businesses and non-profit organizations across the country, the SF/SPCA has not been immune to the economic realities of the recession. In partnership with the Board of Directors, we recently took decisive steps to significantly reduce the operating deficits we had been running over the past 10 years. The most visible of these measures included a reduction and reorganization of our workforce and the closure of Maddie’s Adoption Center on Mondays. While difficult in the short-term, these actions will enhance the organization’s long-term sustainability, allowing us to continue to care for, protect, and save as many, if not more, animals in the future as we have up to now.

In light of the challenging economic times, the SF/SPCA’s achievements in 2009 are all the more remarkable, particularly our grand opening of the Leanne B. Roberts Animal Care Center. The Roberts Center houses the SF/SPCA’s nonprofit, full-service veterinarian hospital, where Mouse and more than 14,000 other dogs and cats received care last year.  In addition to the hospital, the Center is also home to our spay and neuter clinic, which doubled in capacity under its new roof, providing surgeries to more than 6,600 dogs and cats in 2009, including nearly 1,000 feral cats.  In addition, the Roberts Center houses the SF/SPCA’s shelter medicine, feral cat fix, and foster care programs. The foster care program boasted nearly 1,000 cats and 70 dogs last year.   

Maddie’s Adoption Center also experienced an outstanding year, placing more than 4,300 dogs and cats, a six percent boost over 2008. The lasting increase in lives saved through adoption continues to be the most rewarding part of my day, and is a testament to the strong cooperation between the SF/SPCA, San Francisco Animal Care & Control, and other shelters and rescue groups.  

In addition to our veterinarian and adoption services, the SF/SPCA provided a number of other programs and services to help improve the lives of local community members and animals. For example, our Animal Assisted Therapy Program touched the lives of more than 50,000 individuals last year. Additionally, the SF/SPCA reached out to more than 3,000 youth through our Humane Education program, which teaches children respect and responsibility for animals through hands-on activities, including camp sessions, weekend workshops, after-school visits, and shelter tours.


As for 2010, we invite you to mark your calendars for the annual Bark & Whine Ball on March 25 at the Herbst Pavilion at Fort Mason. Once again, we are expecting more than 700 guests and their animal companions to join us to support the SF/SPCA’s Cinderella Fund, the charitable arm of our organization that helped save Mouse’s life. The 2009 Bark & Whine Ball raised more than $200,000 for these services and we anticipate an even greater response this year.

This is a bittersweet time for me, as I will be leaving the SF/SPCA in March to take a position with a regional humane society in my home state of Colorado.  I am extremely comfortable with this change, knowing that I am leaving the organization in great hands. Our staff, volunteers, supporters, and the families who have adopted new members like Mouse have shown a tireless dedication to saving the lives of thousands of animals this year. I am very fortunate to have worked with such a devoted organization and am excited for what the SF/SPCA will accomplish in 2010 and beyond. 

Jan McHugh-Smith is President of the San Francisco SPCA. She and her husband share their home with three adopted dogs: Tulee, a nine-year-old Chihuahua/Dachshund mix; Pepito, a four-year-old Terrier mix; and Flint, a “tiny and feisty” one-and-a-half-year-old Chihuahua. For more information on the SF/SPCA’s programs and services, please visit


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