In the summer of 1888, when Tacoma was just a frontier town, a drunken logger brought a bear cub to the corner of 8th and Pacific, where he began kicking him to get him to perform tricks. A crowd soon gathered, and tried to stop him, but he refused. The Justice of the Peace was summoned, and the logger was arrested. Later that week, a group of town leaders met to form the Tacoma Humane Society – only the fourth such organization in the nation.
For the first few decades, the Humane Society concentrated on protecting livestock, working animals, and children. As orphanages were established and machinery took over farm work, the Humane Society turned its attention to domestic pets. During the 30s and 40s, the Humane Society operated a shelter in the Oakland neighborhood of Tacoma. They rescued animals, found homes for strays, and sponsored an annual Mutt Show. The “city pound” was a separate facility on Center Street, and for decades the Humane Society petitioned to take over its operation. Finally, in the early 1950’s, the Humane Society got its wish, and moved to the building on Center Street, where it remains today.
During the last half of the century, the Humane Society focused largely on protecting dogs and cats, solving the burgeoning pet overpopulation problem, and developing innovative humane programs to serve the entire community. In 1997, a larger, vastly improved William Gazecki Animal Shelter replaced the old, outdated, and cramped building.
Today, The Humane Society shelters more than 12,000 animals every year, maintains more than a dozen Humane Programs, and is at the forefront of progressive animal welfare.