IHS at a Glance

Gray catThe Idaho Humane Society is the largest and oldest animal welfare organization and veterinary charity in the state. We are a private 501(c)3 organization that relies on donations to provide programs and services that benefit animals in Idaho.


The mission of the Idaho Humane Society is to advocate for the welfare and responsible care of animals, protect them from neglect and cruelty, and promote humane education, awareness, and compassion. We believe that because domestic animals are a product of human intervention, we have a special obligation to them in regard to humane treatment and responsible stewardship.


The Idaho Humane Society will continue to grow and meet the demand to shelter, feed, provide medical attention to, and find adoptive homes for abandoned and abused animals in our community; to educate Idahoans about the proper care of their own pets; to prevent animal overpopulation; and to promote kindness to animals. We envision a humane Idaho in which healthy and adoptable animals are no longer euthanized, and both domestic animals and wildlife are treated with compassion and respect.

No Kill Equation

Idaho Humane Society fully supports what has become popularly known as the No-Kill Equation, a collection of core humane best practice approaches to animal sheltering, many of which have been at the heart of progressive shelters like the Idaho Humane Society since the middle of the 20th century as well as other more modern innovations. The No-Kill Equation has been defined as:

  • High Volume, Low-Cost Sterilization of Pets: Idaho Humane Society began sterilizing its shelter pets at the Blue Cross Animal Hospital in Boise in the 1940’s when the practice was still performed with primitive ether anesthesia when many veterinarians were not even equipped to provide small animal surgery. We were the first shelter in Idaho to implement mandatory sterilization of all adopted pets. In 1984, the Idaho Humane Society opened Idaho’s first high volume spay and neuter hospital and we were the first animal shelter in the state to embrace pediatric spay and neuter. The result of our efforts has been a dramatic reduction of pets entering the shelter system.
  • Collaboration with Rescue Groups: Idaho Humane Society has a wonderful working relationship with many rescue groups. Over one thousand animals are transferred each year to our shelter by both smaller rescue groups and other shelters because of our organizations’ high adoption rates and ability to provide special care including veterinary care for pets that exceeds most groups’ resources to provide. Also, every year we transfer some pets from our facility to various specialized rescue groups; in particular, those pets that may not be suited for life in a typical household and may need permanent sanctuary in a highly controlled environment.
  • Foster Care: Idaho Humane Society has the largest network of volunteer foster caregivers in Idaho and nearly 2,000 animals are cared for annually by our loving foster families. Special needs pets such as un-weaned kittens, pets recovering from injuries and illnesses, and those that require behavioral interventions or socialization, are all saved by this extensive program that greatly increases our capacity to save pets. We also have an amazing correctional facility based foster program that has been in place for many years.
  • Comprehensive Adoption Programs: Adoptions are vital to our lifesaving mission and luckily most of the pets we shelter are placed in new homes very quickly. We ensure that pets at our facility get great exposure to prospective adopters by being open more days and longer hours than any other shelter in Idaho: eight hours per day, seven days per week. Our website and extensive social media presence promote our adoptable pets daily and we average one off-site adoption event per week. Many local businesses house and provide an adoption venue for our shelter animals as well.
  • Pet Retention Programs: We always want to focus our shelter resources on the pets that most need our care and whenever possible, we work to keep pets with their owners. This includes assistance with behavioral and medical problems that may exceed a family’s capacity to deal with but with some expert assistance and financial support can be solved.
  • Medical Programs: In the entire U.S., there are only a handful of animal shelters with more comprehensive veterinary medical capabilities than provided at the Idaho Humane Society Veterinary Medical Center. Shelter animals receive the same medical care that they would receive as if they were owned. This program also benefits the low-income pet owners that seek our assistance and is our most impactful outreach into the community.
  • Public Relations/Community Involvement: Increasing adoptions, maximizing donations, recruiting volunteers, partnering with community agencies, and being transparent in all our activities has been our approach since our inception.
  • Volunteers: Our 1,200 volunteers are the backbone of our organization and they work at every single level of our organization. From our all-volunteer 19-member board of directors to our dog walkers, cat huggers and dish cleaners – our volunteers make a lifesaving difference every day at our facility and are fully integrated into all aspects of what we do.
  • Proactive Redemptions: Every animal we adopt out is implanted with a permanent identification microchip. We expend great efforts matching reports of lost animals with animals in the shelter, rehome animals in the field when possible, and use technology such as receiving lost reports online to ensure faster reunification of pets with owners.
  • Compassionate Leadership and Staffing: From top to bottom, our organization is committed to saving every animal that we possibly can. We are continually open to new ways to improve the chance for every savable pet to find a new home and our programs exemplify this.

What is the No-Kill approach?

In the 1990’s, animal advocates launched what would come to be known as the No-Kill Movement. By their own admission, there was nothing new in this approach to animal sheltering. Rather, the founders of the movement simply advocated for the best lifesaving approaches that progressive humane societies had implemented for many decades. These policies stood in stark contrast to some of the inhumane practices being followed by other non-progressive shelters, many of which were government owned and operated facilities.

The genius of the No-Kill movement was to encompass essential elements of humane sheltering within an evocative, populist marketing term that would capture public support and create a dynamic call for change to abusive policies and protocols. The term No-Kill resonated deeply with the public and the Movement’s predilection for using the term “killing” in place of “euthanasia” was galvanizing. Rallying widespread public support into a national movement with a passionate following, the No-Kill advocates were motivated to confront those animal shelters around the country that they believed were poorly run, had inhumane practices, failed to innovate, were satisfied with the status quo, and as a result, had high euthanasia rates.

Along with the good, came some unintended and extremely tragic consequences. Many organizations, using an overly simplistic interpretation of No-Kill began policies of selective admission in which they “cherry picked” only the most desirable and healthy pets for admission to their facilities and turned away injured, ill, and old animals to ensure they achieved low euthanasia statistics. As a result, the workload for caring for the neediest pets in communities fell even harder upon shelters with traditional open admission policies and in some communities, there remained no safety net at all for vulnerable, suffering pets. Even worse, under the banner of the No-Kill Movement, some shelters and rescues began long-term mass warehousing of pets in overcrowded, unsanitary shelters including animals suffering from serious behavioral and medical conditions. By failing to provide humane euthanasia, some of the worst mass animal cruelty situations ever confronted by law enforcement developed, ironically perpetrated by shelters that described themselves as No-Kill.

These perverse, fringe versions of No-Kill horrified traditional humane societies like the Idaho Humane Society and drew the ire of national organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the nation’s foremost animal rights organization, which became a fierce critic of No-Kill. An unfortunate rift developed within the animal sheltering community largely due to misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

Today, there has been a dramatic reconciliation as rational and kind minds on both sides of the previous divide have moved towards a common understanding and beyond non-productive rhetoric. Today, while many humane organizations still decline to utilize the term No-Kill because of its potential for conflict and misunderstanding, most animal shelters today, whether they choose to define themselves as No-Kill or not, are implementing the same No-Kill Equation approach.

The true No-Kill Movement can be simply described as the caregivers and organizations united by a common goal to save animal’s lives whenever there is a humane alternative to killing. Virtually every No-Kill organization performs euthanasia when necessary, on dangerously aggressive animals that cannot be rehabilitated, and on animals with medical conditions beyond their capabilities to heal, ensuring they provide a humane and healthful environment for the pets they provide sanctuary. Most importantly, those who advocate the No-Kill credo ensure that their organizations seek alternative humane options to save animals whenever possible.


Early Beginnings

Old Boise PoundThe original Idaho Humane Society was formed in Boise in the late 1890s and active through the early decades of the last century. It was an all-volunteer organization. Some of the original members were later affiliated with the current Humane Society, including District Judge Charles F. Koelsch, who was a lifelong and influential advocate for the humane treatment of animals and for the punishment of those who perpetuate acts of cruelty.

The current Idaho Humane Society was officially incorporated after three Boise women – Mrs. John (Olga) Rothchild, Mrs. Ben Mains and Mrs. Earl Zimmerman – protested inhumane conditions at the Boise City Pound in June 1941. The women took a local Idaho Statesman reporter to investigate the pound and confronted Boise Mayor Westerman Whillock with demands that conditions should be improved.

The result was a front-page Idaho Statesman expose that infuriated local citizens with its account of stray dogs languishing in the pound. The pound facility at the time was a three-sided wooden barn located on the banks of the Boise River near present-day Ann Morrison Park in an area known to residents as “shanty town.” Dogs were reportedly kept without adequate food or water, and subsequently shot and left to decompose within the structure.

Reacting to public pressure, the mayor assured residents that the situation would be remedied and pledged to adequately fund the pound with dog license revenue. With the help of the group that would become the Idaho Humane Society, the structure was cleaned and the animals were cared for properly. New policies for humane euthanasia, sanitation and plentiful food and water were put in place, and mandatory holding periods for stray dogs were also established.

The Idaho Humane Society took over the functions of running the shelter and was highly successful at finding the owners of lost dogs and adopting out those that were not claimed.

Olga Rothchild, both passionate and forceful in her concern for animals, continued to be a driving force in improving conditions. The group was ahead of its time, ensuring that adopted female dogs were spayed at the Blue Cross Hospital for Dogs in Boise (a revolutionary idea at that time). During this time the pound had no electricity or heat, and water for cleaning had to be carried from the river in buckets.

One of the organization’s early accomplishments was passing local animal cruelty and dog-at-large laws. The shelter was moved to an old army barracks at Gowen Field in 1949. In 1959, a new shelter was constructed. The majority of funds came from the Humane Society, with Ada County and the city of Boise contributing the rest.

Although conditions were much improved, this shelter was overcrowded from the beginning, a situation that was remedied in 1997 with the construction of the Dorman campus 27,000-square-foot facility funded by a capital campaign that raised $3.8 million from local philanthropists and businesses.

November 2019 brought the opening of our new 42,000 square foot shelter, completely paid by local philanthropists and businesses once again. The new facility hosts our adoption, education, and veterinary medical centers.

The shelter currently handles an average of 12,000 animals a year and has one of the most successful adoption and fostering programs in the Northwest. The current Idaho Humane Society has a staff of over 100 employees and more than 1,000 volunteers. It is governed by an all-volunteer, 19-member board of directors.