Here Are the Best Places in Santa Barbara County To Adopt Your Pet

Michelle Marie Warner
Some sweet animals at Santa Barbara's no-kill shelters are waiting for you
Shelter pup awaiting adoptionPhoto by lutz44 on Pixabay

Santa Barbara, CA, has a few animal shelters, all of them “no-kill.” Because I grew up in that area, I didn’t know some places killed animals unnecessarily until I was an adult. Shelters do humanely euthanize when an animal is suffering, but not because of inconvenience or overcrowding.

I was fortunate to see the love and attention paid to strays and animals who needed rehoming for various reasons. Animal shelters often serve as a rescue sanctuary for lost pets so their owners can find them. Volunteers and staff treat wounds, injuries, or diseases, and certified trainers address behavior issues.

I’ve adopted pets from a few of the following Santa Barbara shelters. You can find a healthy pet at a reasonable cost to cover shots and spay/neuter. They counsel on preparing your home and do home visits for dogs.

Here’s where you can search for your loving pet in Santa Barbara County:

Santa Barbara Humane Society

The Humane Society serves Santa Barbara County and Santa Maria Valley. According to the website, their mission statement is as follows:

To be champions for animals and the people who love them.

Bedsides adoption, Santa Barbara Humane Society offers the following services:

  • Low-cost veterinary care
  • Spay/neuter
  • Vaccinations/deworming
  • Nail trimming/microchip

They offer dog training, fostering, dog licensing, and rehoming. Their website shares abundant resources for pet owners, including tips for cats and dogs, behavior solutions, information on fleas, poisonous plants, and more.

Adoption opportunities by appointment only during the Covid-19 pandemic from 10 AM-4 PM. They take emails and phone calls from 9 AM-5 PM every day.

I’ve adopted a kitty from here. He was named Dash, and I later named him Sebastian. He appeared to hate other cats there, and was quite feisty on the way to the visiting room. When he immediately calmed down and began purring on my lap, I knew we were meant to be together.

I brought him home to three other bonded cats, and he promptly claimed the alpha role. Just when I thought he might not be a good match for my other feline friends, he peeked on me in the shower. I told him, “I guess you can stay.”

I found out later he was a Bengal cat. That’s why he loved the water, played fetch, and was so big for five months old when I adopted him. Sadly, he got hit by a car a year later and didn’t survive his injuries. I’m grateful we spent some time loving each other for the brief time he was in my life.

Adoption costs range from $125 for kittens ($75 for the second kitten), $50 for cats (two for one for bonded pairs), $25 for senior kittens, and $125–175 for dogs and puppies.

Santa Barbara Humane Society currently has dogs and cats open to adoption in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria. Visit: for more information on adoption.

County of Santa Barbara Animal Services

Similar to the Humane Society, County Shelter offers adoption services, vaccination, licensing, spay/neuter, and microchipping. They work with Santa Barbara Public Health Department to maintain health and safety of domesticated animals from rabies, street dangers, and in the wild.

They routinely rescue strays, feral cats, and more. However, during Covid-19, they have had to modify their services. They don’t accept healthy pets for rehoming at this time. They also request that you foster strays until they can find their home instead of bringing them to the shelter. They’ve suspended spay/neuter services, and their vaccination clinic is closed until further notice.

They offer services by appointment only during the pandemic. Adoption hours are 10 AM-4:30 PM Monday-Friday and 9:30 AM-3:30 PM on Saturdays. Dog adoption fee is $112; cat adoption is $75; bunnies are $30, and guinea pigs are $12. Adoption fees cover spay/neuter, and vaccinations.

County of Santa Barbara Animal Services has some outstanding adoption partners. These volunteer based organizations are some of my favorite places to visit animals.

Here are a few:


Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter, or BUNS, is one of the most fun shelters to visit, and the perfect place to find a sweet bunny to adopt. My kids and I used to visit all the time when we lived in Santa Barbara.

The volunteers gave us a bucket of greens to feed each bunny, educated us, and let one or two bunnies roam free around the shelter. If we were lucky, one might stop and let us pet them.

BUNS rescues stray bunnies and will accept a pet surrender during non-pandemic times. Bunnies often get adopted during holidays like Easter, without regard to the work involved. Because they reproduce quickly and have many offspring, there are always bunnies up for adoption. Please spay or neuter your pet bunny.

They also have oftentimes skittish guinea pigs. We rarely get to feed or pet them because they’re too nervous. One time, we had the pleasure of witnessing a volunteer feeding a banana to a sweet guinea. It was a treat for all of us.


Animal Shelter Assistance Program, or ASAP, is a cat shelter next door to the County of SB Animal Services. They have dedicated volunteers of all abilities. I used to support a few clients as a job coach at ASAP. They clean cages, brush, feed, and socialize the cats.

They used to only have a couple of small outdoor enclosures to visit the cats. A few years ago, they constructed an extensive wooden “catio,” complete with tunnels and platforms. I’ve taken my autistic student there many times. He loves kitties and has a natural connection with them. It was such a healthy outlet for him.

Volunteers typically allow you to visit a cat you’re interested in adopting. They let you visit outside or inside to get acquainted. I adopted a cat there once and was happy with my experience there.

ASAP insists that you agree to keep your cat indoors. They have it written in the adoption contract. I didn’t agree with that mandate years ago. I thought it was healthier for cats to roam free. After losing a few cats to the road, I see the importance of keeping indoor cats in urban areas — for their safety and the health of the local bird population.

ASAP moved their applications online, and you can complete the adoption process by phone. Their annual Basil’s Big Bash, named after an adopted kitty, will be a virtual event in 2021. They waive adoption fees during the event.

DAWG — in cooperation with Santa Ynez Humane Society

Dog Adoption Welfare Group, or DAWG, recently moved their services to Santa Ynez Humane Society. They take in rescues and rehabilitate to prepare for adoption.

I found my dear Benji pup there in 2009, when he was only a few months old. He had been found on the side of the road with this mother and sister in the north county city of Lompoc. We believe he may have been neglected and/or abused by a man, since was nervous with most men.

The volunteers and paid staff at DAWG committed to rehabilitating Benji, a chihuahua-wire-haired terrier, then named Scruffy. They get a lot of pit bull and chihuahua rescues, often from neglectful or abusive situations.

They provide compassion and apply skills to help them thrive in their future forever homes. Volunteers sometimes end up adopting their foster dogs, which they endearingly call “foster failures.”

They currently offer appointment-based adoption services in Santa Ynez. Adoption costs range from $65–200 for dogs and cats.

Final thoughts

When you’re ready to adopt, please visit the Humane Society and County Animal Services of Santa Barbara. They have dogs, cats, bunnies, and sometimes birds, rodents, and reptiles for you to meet.

Adoption costs are reasonable, and services extensive due to the generous donations from the community. Santa Barbara is known for its worthy contributors. But many more are of average income who care about animal welfare. Most shelters have a lot of volunteers to help support animals in need.

Adopting a pet is an important, life-changing decision. Finding a compassionate, humane animal adoption shelter makes a difference in your relationship.

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Grateful single mama with a plethora of passions. Keen observer with an eye for editing. I write about relationships, parenting, mental health, addiction and recovery, creativity/productivity, gratitude, mindfulness, and personal growth. She/her. Let’s connect.

Eugene, OR

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