The first animal anticruelty law in the United States was passed on April 10, 1866. Five years later, on September 1st, 1871, a group of prominent community leaders in Poughkeepsie held a public meeting to form the Poughkeepsie Branch of the A.S.P.C.A. The name was changed in 1889 to the “Poughkeepsie Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals”.
There is a gap in the records until 1937. At that time there was a small wooden shelter, a shed, behind the City of Poughkeepsie incinerator, on an underdeveloped road. The quarters were cramped and had no ventilation, sanitary facilities, phone or running water.
In 1939, the Society again changed its name, to the name it bears today, the Dutchess County SPCA. A parcel of land, which was more accessible to the public, was purchased on Washington Street across from St. Francis Hospital.
Construction of the shelter that was able to house 30 dogs was completed in 1941. By 1958 the Shelter on Washington Street was too small. Mrs. Donald Love organized a group of community women and formed the SPCA Auxiliary to raise funds to purchase land and build a new facility. They held various fundraisers such as the Animal Kingdom Ball and rummage sales and were able to purchase 31 acres of land on 9G in Hyde Park, where the shelter still stands.
The new cement block building that was dedicated in July 1961 contained a small animal room for cats and puppies and isolation ward for sick animals. There was also a cemetery on the grounds where for a fee people could bury their deceased pets. The Auxiliary continued to raise money to support the Shelter for many years as well as to provide funds for the spaying and neutering of adopted animals.
By 1970, the Shelter was taking in animals from all of the surrounding towns. Annually, about 1,500 animals come through the DCSPCA’s doors on their way to a better life. This is more than the shelter was built to handle. So, in 1987 the building was expanded. A puppy run, holding room and storage area was added. Outdoor kennels for large dogs and runs were added in 1997. A Spay/Neuter clinic was added in 2002. More outdoor kennel spaces were added in 2003 and a free-roam sun room for cats was added in 2006. At about this time, a Master Site Plan was created to address the long range needs of the shelter and the DCSPCA received a gift from the estate of Dr. Edith Har-Esh to launch a capital campaign for a new shelter.
In 1992 the shelter adopted a “No-Kill policy.
On November 18, 2010 the DCSPCA officially broke ground on the new Adoption and Education Center.
In 2011 the Board of Directors voted to change the vision and mission statements and added a statement of core values.
In 2012 the DCSPCA opened a thrift shoppe in Hyde Park and a satellite adoption location inside PetSmart in Poughkeepsie.
On October 2, 2014 the new Adoption and Education Center opened its doors for adoptions. The official opening celebration was held on Nov. 14, 2014.
Today, the organization faces many of the same problems that faced Boards throughout the years: too many animals in need, lack of funds, and inadequate facilities.