Celebrating 80 Years in the Community
On Wednesday, July 15, 2020, SPCA Tampa Bay is celebrating the BIG 8-0! It’s our 80th birthday. SPCA Tampa Bay was originally founded on July 15, 1940, in St. Petersburg, Florida, as the Animal Welfare League (AWL). At that time Pinellas County’s cities were responsible for handling the stray and homeless dog population.
By February 1949 the AWL had changed its name to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) of St. Petersburg. Newspaper articles throughout the 1940s referred to the organization as the St Petersburg Animal Welfare League, the SPCA of St. Petersburg and even the SPCA of Pinellas County.
Key firsts for SPCA Tampa Bay in the 1940s:
• Founded as “Animal Welfare League” at 4720 Freemont Terrace South
• First pet first aid class offered through local veterinarians
• First dog training class offered to pet owners
• Name changed to “SPCA of St. Petersburg” to acknowledge local community
Groundbreaking for a new $26,000 animal shelter took place on March 19, 1954. This facility would replace the city’s dog pound.
Here’s more highlights from the 1950s:
• Administrative offices established at 4th St. N & Central Ave
• Opposed Pet Seizure Act that allowed shelter pets to be used in medical research
• Groundbreaking for new shelter to be constructed at 5301 63rd St. N
• Request to rezone 63rd St. property denied; forced to move
In 1965, the Evening Independent proclaimed the SPCA a “Noah’s ark” when a reporter’s visit revealed 787 dogs, 413 cats and 69 other animals were admitted to the SPCA. Other animals included a raccoon, a skunk, seven rabbits, monkeys, hamsters, Guinea pigs, parakeets, ducks, turtles and even a kinkajou. Most found homes whether released to the wild or adopted by new owners. The kinkajoo was released in a St. Petersburg city nature trail area.
Highlights from the 1960s:
• Land purchased at 126th Ave N in Largo
• Moved to new shelter and administrative facilities in Largo
• Opposed cruel rodeo practices at Pinellas County Fair
• Local veterinarians began offering free exams to adopted pets
By 1970 a half million people lived in Pinellas County. St. Petersburg continued to be the largest city in the county with 216,000 residents. Population growth exacerbated the problems of stray dogs, insufficient enforcement of dog licensing laws, and the lack of resources for dog control.
Highlights from the 1970s:
• Pinellas County built own animal shelter and began taking in stray animals
• SPCA humane officer helped convict dog abuser
• Began spaying or neutering all pets before going home
• Supported bill prohibiting use of live rabbits at dog racing tracks
In 1980, SPCA auxiliary volunteers started a pet therapy program. By 1984 the therapy program was extended to children at PARC.
Highlights from the 1980s:
• “Flying Pigs” show with parachuting of live pigs cancelled through SPCA advocacy
• SPCA director highlighted as speaker on Victim Rights Coalition panel
• Actively promoted first St. Pete Grand Prix to SPCA donors and adopters
• Sheltered pets during first regional collaborative hurricane response
October 13, 1990, was the date of the first annual SPCA Pet Walk. The inaugural event was called the ‘Paws for a Cause Walkathon’ and was held at St. Petersburg’s North Shore Park, Gizella Kopsick Palm Arboretum (just north of the Vinoy) and raised a little over $3,600. The 1999 Walk would raise $147,000. In June 1997, the SPCA board approved changing the name of the organization to The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Pinellas County. The tagline ~ Adopt Love for Life.
In May 1999, the SPCA Pawsitively Purrfect Gala/Auction netted $40,000 up from $27,000 in 1998.
Highlights from the 1990s:
• Offered first summer camp to children interested in animals
• Provided medical assistance to 354 oiled seabirds after tanker collision
• SPCA helped prosecute first FL animal abuser given jail time
• Name changed to “SPCA of Pinellas County” to reflect scope of programs
In the summer of 2004, hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne struck Florida. SPCA staff and Bay Area DART members assisted in animal rescue and recovery efforts in ten areas. Just a year later the organization changed its name (and logo) from SPCA of Pinellas County to SPCA Tampa Bay
Highlights from the 2000s:
• Groundbreaking for Einherst Education Center on Largo campus
• Largo campus chosen as launch site for US Postal Service spay/neuter stamps
• Name changed to “SPCA Tampa Bay” to differentiate from county’s Animal Services
• St. Pete mayor adopted SPCA dog to celebrate new “doggie dining” ordinance
In celebration of its 70th year, SPCA Tampa Bay held its annual 2010 Animal Affaire, night of the unleashed, at the Rutland-Farley mansion. Plus, in 2011 two key additions were made to the SPCA Tampa Bay team. Dr. Rizal Lopez was hired as veterinary services director and in July 2011, Martha Boden was hired as our CEO.
Highlights from 2010s:
• SPCA led development of county-wide view of shelter animal statistics
• Collaborated with partners to revise ordinance helping community cats
• SPCA Tampa Bay Veterinary Center opens
• New Dawn Animal “dog training” Behavior Center becomes part of the family
What’s in store for the current decade and for the next 80 years? In January 2020, SPCA Tampa Bay officially launched the extension of their brand as a for-all shelter. Stay tuned to all of our social media storytelling channels for updates and stories about all of our adoptable animals.