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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Then and Now: Spokane Humane Society

The Spokane Humane Society, which formed around 1897, became the city dog pound in the early 1900s and had a building on the north shore of the Spokane River. The organization stepped away from enforcing animal laws in the 1960s but still continues to rescue and care for animals and adopt them out.

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Image One Charle Libby | The Spokesman-Review Photo Archive
Image Two Jesse Tinsley | The Spokesman-Review

Then and Now: Spokane Humane Society

William Stone McCrea came to Spokane as a teenager in 1887.

When the downtown was destroyed by fire in the 1889 fire, he worked the information booth, while the downtown was still a smoldering ruin. He succeeded in his real estate and insurance work, joined several fraternal clubs and lodges and McCrea helped found the new Spokane Humane Society in 1897, serving as secretary, vice president or president for almost 50 years.

People across the region were banding together to speak for “the voiceless,” both children and animals, through new organizations.

Early resolutions passed by the Society included keeping children out of saloons to keep them from learning “intemperance and bad language.” The Humane Society was declared as the city dog pound in 1901, the same year the Washington State Legislature passed laws against animal cruelty.

The 1901 law allowed Humane Society volunteers to be sworn in as “special humane officers.” The first eight were women. Posted on streets throughout the downtown area, they watched teamsters and cargo haulers, always alert for animals without food or water, angry drivers beating horses or animals too old or weak to be working.

After using barns to house stray animals for several years, the group built a brick building in 1910 next to the Spokane Flour Mill on Broadway Avenue.

As cars replaced horses on city streets, the Humane Society turned its attention to cats and dogs. Although first subsidized by membership fees, the funding later came from selling dog and cat licenses.

McCrea died in 1946 at the age of 75.

In 1955, the city of Spokane passed a leash law and required that animals be contained on the owners’ property. Enforcement of the new laws, which exploded the population of the shelter, led to a backlash against the Humane Society.

The group severed their contract with the city over money issues in 1961. The group began fundraising to sustain operations.

The Spokane Humane Society bought 40 acres on North Havana Street in 1974 and built a new shelter there.

Over the decades since the Humane Society stepped away from animal control duties, they have traded or shared enforcement duties, animal sheltering and adoption services with SpokAnimal and the Spokane County Regional Animal Care and Protection Service (SCRAPS).

In 2013, the city of Spokane signed a long-term contract for animal control services with SCRAPS.

Captions: 1932 - The 1911 Spokane Humane Society building on the north shore of the Spokane River served as the city dog pound until the 1960s, when the Society severed its contract with the city of Spokane, which took over animal control duties. Today, the city contracts with the Spokane Country Regional Animal Protection Services for enforcement of animal laws and picking up of strays. Today: A high-rise condominium building sits on the bank of the Spokane River, just west of The Flour Mill, where the Spokane Humane Society dog pound building once sat. 

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