Gary Weitzman: Saving Animals in San Diego County


Created: 31 May, 2018
Last update: 27 July, 2022

By Mimi Pollack

As president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA, “humane” is a good word to describe Gary Weitzman, as helping animals in need has been his stated mission in life.

Weitzman came to San Diego in May 2012. In the six years he has been here, he has brought his energy and vision to unify and strengthen all of San Diego County’s animal shelters.

Weitzman, grew up in Boston. From the time he was a child, he knew he wanted to be a veterinarian. Although he loved animals, he could not convince his parents to get a dog until he was 16. Ironically, the dog, a chow mix, became his mother’s faithful companion.

Weitzman received a bachelor’s degrees in biology and English from Colby College, a master’s in public health from Boston University’s School of Public Health, and completed his formal education with a doctorate of veterinary medicine from Tufts University.

While in veterinarian school, he got his second pet dog, a greyhound. Not only did he love that breed, he wanted to give back to these after having worked on 80 greyhound cadavers while in training.

He joined the Air Force in 1993, where he put his public health degree to use as he was in charge of food safety, workplace safety, and nuclear safety while he was stationed in Texas and then Washington, D.C.

After being relocated to Wyoming for duty, he began to moonlight at an emergency vet clinic in Boulder, Colorado, to which he would drive on weekends. This allowed him to combine both of his passions. He served actively for four years, and spent another five years in the Air Force reserve.

In 1997, he moved to northern California, taking over a practice of a companion animal hospital in Burlingame. He worked there until 2003, when he was hired as the president and CEO of The Washington Animal Rescue League in Washington, DC.

During his tenure at the Washington Animal Rescue League, he guided the organization into becoming a national resource for disaster and puppy mill rescues as well as leading a large, urban homeless animal rehabilitation and adoption center through a period of unprecedented growth.

Weitzman stated that he felt satisfied with all that he accomplished during the years he spent there, but he had a longing to return to California.

In May 2012, he made his return to California after the president and CEO position at the San Diego Humane Society was offered to him.

On July 1, 2014, The Humane Society and SPCA merged with the Escondido Humane Society and today they also serve the cities of Vista, San Marcos, Oceanside, Poway, and Imperial Beach. As of July 1, 2018, they will also extend their services to Carlsbad, Del Mar, Encinitas, Solana Beach, and Santee.

In addition, they these humane organizations work closely with the East County Animal Rescue as well as the Chula Vista Animal Care Facility, which also serves National City and Lemon Grove.

Weitzman has spearheaded what he calls “The Treatable Pet Initiative,” which has the goal to save the life of every adoptable animal in the San Diego Animal Welfare Coalition. The final goal of “getting to zero” was met in 2015, five years earlier than projected. Since then, no healthy or treatable animal has been euthanized. Weitzman stated proudly that San Diego County is the largest region in the country to have met that goal.

He is also proud that the SDHS merged with PAWS, an organization that provides essential pet services and support to low-income pet families all over San Diego County, including seniors and the disabled. This includes ongoing Community Outreach events with free or low cost pet services.

One of Weitzman’s future goals is to collaborate more with the shelter in Tijuana and other animal rescue groups in Baja California.

Weitzman says he really enjoys his new life in San Diego. He feels that this is one of the best cities in terms of lifestyle. He lives here with his two senior rescue dogs, Jake, a three legged, very expressive German shepherd, and Betty, a calm and sweet pit bull mix.

He also believes that as the president of one of the largest shelters in the nation, with over 300 employees, the San Diego HUmane Society and its partners have the tools be a role model for others and lead the way in making a difference.