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.


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 formed 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.

Formal Incorporation to Today

In 1945, the group was formerly incorporated as the Idaho Humane Society. One of the organization’s early accomplishments was passing local animal cruelty and dog-at-large laws.

The shelter was moved to 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 present day 27,000-square-foot facility funded by a capital campaign that raised $3.8 million from local philanthropists and businesses.

The shelter currently handles more than 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 nearly 100 employees and more than 1,000 volunteers. It is governed by an all-volunteer, 19-member board of directors.