Gertrude O Lewis photoThink one person can’t make a difference? Think again!

Hartford High School senior, Gertrude O. Lewis, founded the Connecticut Humane Society in 1881. In a day and age when women did not yet have the right to vote, this student decried the widespread callous treatment of children, livestock, wildlife, companion animals, and animals used in the workplace and in sport. As demand for improved social conditions grew, she transformed her dismay into responsible action.

For 84 years, CHS was the only statewide organization offering protective services to children until the State of Connecticut developed the Department of Children and Families in 1965. At this point, CHS’ primary focus shifted to animals – specifically pets. Over the years, CHS has built a staff of caring professionals, recruited a corps of dedicated volunteers, developed humane education initiatives, and entered into the public affairs arena in support of humane animal treatment legislation.

CHS’ first office was in the basement of a building at the corner of Prospect and Grove Streets in Hartford. As the need for CHS’ unique services quickly grew, it became apparent that expansion was necessary. Within a short period of time, headquarters moved to 300 Washington Street, Hartford, where they remained for over 30 years. In 1900, CHS’ first branch office was opened in New Haven and shortly thereafter branches were established in Bridgeport, New London and Stamford. Today, CHS has locations in Newington, Waterford and Westport.

CHS has grown throughout the years to better serve the people and pets of Connecticut. In 1958, headquarters moved to 701 Russell Road, Newington, CT. In 1998, the new 30,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art headquarters and Fox Memorial Clinic were completed on CHS grounds in Newington. This facility more than tripled the capacity to care for pets in need, and improved and expanded services to pets and their families. The Fox Memorial Clinic opened in April of 1999, offering reduced-fee veterinary services for pet owners in financial need. In 2004 and 2011, respectively, the Westport and Waterford facilities were expanded and renovated using state-of-the-art technology to better care for pets in a safe and healthy environment.

CHS’ programs have also grown in response to the needs of the community. A Pet Food Pantry works to keep more pets in homes and out of shelters. Pop-up clinics deliver vaccine and wellness services to high-need communities across the state. Education and outreach initiatives inspire the next generation to be kind to animals, help animal welfare professionals excel in their roles, and engage learners of all ages in the protection of animals.

Throughout its history, CHS has remained at the forefront of the animal welfare world, enriching the lives of the citizens and animals of Connecticut. With the powerful human-animal bond at the heart of its mission, CHS envisioned by Gertrude O. Lewis, continues to evolve and expand to serve the needs of the community and to plan for the future.