Animal Welfare Agencies

What is the difference between an animal shelter and a humane society?

This is very confusing as they tend to overlap in their duties. They fall under the category of Animal Welfare Agencies. The different agencies are called animal shelters, humane societies, animal control and even simply – animal services.

Animal Control Agencies

Responsible for animal regulation and control. They are usually county or city agencies and can be found under “Animal Services”. Many will have Animal Control Officers who enforce local ordinances, humane treatment of animals, and the pickup and housing of stray animals.

Animal Shelters

Animal shelters give shelter to abused animals, rescued animals, strays, or owner relinquished animals. Could be privately run or contracted by the municipality to house animals in an animal control capacity. Local veterinarians in small towns have even offered this sort of care. Humane Officers perform similar duties as Animal Control Officers.

Humane Societies

These facilities vary. Some are national plus there are thousands of smaller ones across the United States. Standard guidelines are suggested by the American Humane Association (AHA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), but each is a private organization and not related to the others. Many are nonprofit.

Each humane society (large or small) is a separate business responsible for their own rules and operations. Many facilities or organizations will provide sheltering for owner relinquished animals only and will not take strays; others will contract with local cities and provide animal control and sheltering functions also. Some will not have facilities but will provide foster homes for animals in their area or raise funds for animal-related projects.

More Info

Animal control agencies have large numbers of animals moving through their facilities. Each year close to 20 million animals end up in shelters. Statistics and numbers vary, but close to 65% of those animals do not find homes.

If you have a lost pet, go directly to the agency that handles the animal control services in your area. They might have referrals and contacts for you, but many times won’t have your animal. Depending on the policies of that agency, it is usually against the law for a private agency to take in strays. 

If you are looking to adopt, these private humane societies will know some of the history on the animals, screen them for basic health issues and can give you an idea of their personalities. “No Kill” shelters will usually spay or neuter, have all the shots up to date and microchip the animals.

 What to do with a Stray Cat?



Pet Adoption

Best Friends Network
Best Friends Animal Society