The History of Pets Unlimited

Pets UnlimitedPets Unlimited was born from the selfless acts of Mrs. Carter H. Downing in 1940s San Francisco. When a scruffy, stray dog wandered into her yard, Mrs. Downing did what any good citizen would do — she took the dog to the city pound. But she soon learned that the dog’s chances for survival were slim; wayward pets were euthanized after only a few days if they weren't adopted. Mrs. Downing decided to take the dog back home with her. Then she did more -- She adopted all the other dogs at the pound!

Mrs. Downing, along with Mrs. Alice Coldwell and a small group of compassionate San Franciscans, began their own impromptu adoption service, which proved amazingly successful at finding loving homes for animals in need. In May, 1947, the inaugural Pets Unlimited shelter was opened. It was the first shelter to operate under a revolutionary novel, no-kill policy.

To support and complement the shelter, the Pets Unlimited founders had the foresight to establish a nonprofit veterinary hospital — available to the public — which in turn enabled complete medical care for animals awaiting adoption. This unique, integrated program was regarded as one of the most advanced of its kind in the world.

Over 60 years, Pets Unlimited rescued, rehabilitated, and rehomed thousands of animals with nowhere else to turn. The organization became well known throughout San Francisco for its special needs shelter and adoption center, as well as for providing 24-hour emergency care to cats and dogs in need.

On March 1st, 2014, Pets Unlimited merged with the San Francisco SPCA. By combining forces, the two organizations have significantly increased their ability to help both people and pets in San Francisco.

Learn more about the merger.

Read more about the history of the San Francisco SPCA.