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The Humane Society’s Ken White

By Julissa James

Illustration by Olivia Wise.

At the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA, where he’s served as president since 2002, Ken White shares his office with two tortoises. Throughout his 40 years in the animal welfare field, White has also worked for SPCA’s San Francisco branch, pioneering pet therapy strategies, and was hired by Dianne Feinstein to be the deputy director for SF Animal Care and Control when she was mayor. His love for animals is all-encompassing, blurring the line between his professional and personal lives. From Jasper the dog (White’s fiercely loyal companion during his early 20s) to the plethora of animals housed by his family at any given moment (think pups, pigs and lizards alike), he’s experienced first-hand pets’ positive effect on humans.

The cause: The Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA cares for the welfare of all creatures big and small, regardless of species, health or age, in San Mateo county. The group focuses on rehabilitation with the eventual goal of adoption (for domesticated animals, that is).

Founders: Twenty-one community members founded the organization on October 31, 1950.

Inspiration: “The people who are able to work in this field for a longtime like I have, every one of us has the same answer,” White says of the driving force behind his efforts. “It is the ability today to save an animal that I might not have been able to save a year ago, five years ago, 10 years ago.”

Impact: Leah, the Peninsula Humane Society’s feisty but loving pit bull, comes to mind. The nonprofit took her in as part of its Hope Program and gave her specialized attention addressing her behavioral barriers to adoption. Leah was trained, cared for and kept happy for three years before learning to be a “good canine citizen” and getting adopted into her forever home. She’s one of a few hundred animals each year that go through the program, many of them for medical intervention. The Peninsula Humane Society saves more than 6,000 animal lives annually. Its deepest effect, says White, is “helping people value the nonhuman animals with whom they share this planet.”

Budget: $14 million annually

Supporters: Vanessa Getty and Hillary Thomas are board members, and Oracle co-founder and Chairman Larry Ellison donated the single largest contribution ever given to the org — a gift that went toward a $26.5 million facility that opened in 2011.

Get involved: Adopt, volunteer, donate. For more information, visit

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