Champaign County Humane Society History

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." —Margaret Mead

On March 5, 1889, a group of 33 citizens gathered together to organize a Champaign branch of the Illinois Humane Society. This became the foundation for the organization chartered as the Champaign County Humane Society in 1903. Like so many other humane societies in those early years, the Society focused on the protection of children as well as animals.

This early humane society worked actively to improve conditions for livestock and cart horses on the streets of Urbana-Champaign. Later members took stray pets into their own homes for rehabilitation and placement. Official records from this era are sparse, but we are working to bring together the fragments of the lives of the passionate CCHS founders that whisper to us from the archives.

On April 5, 1951, a diverse group of local citizens who cared deeply about animals gathered together at the home of Mrs. Helen Stevick in Champaign to hold the first meeting of the newly reorganized Champaign County Humane Society, which was incorporated under the Federal General Not for Profit Corporation Act. On May 24, 1954, the Society opened its first animal shelter, near Bondville, Illinois. In June of 1988, we moved into our current shelter in Urbana.

We have minutes from board-of-directors meetings and other records dating back to 1951, but have recently uncovered evidence of an earlier Humane Society that dates back to the end of the 19th century. For example, we have discovered "The Fourth Annual Report of the President of the Champaign County Humane Society,” dated 1908 and published in 1909.


These tantalizing glimpses back into time appear on microfilm in the Champaign County Archives at the Urbana Free Library; historic newspaper files at the Illinois Newspaper Project at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; records of the Illinois Humane Society maintained in the the Special Collections of the Richard J. Daley Library at the Chicago campus; and in newly digitized material made available on the internet by distant libraries. We'll post them here as we find them, along with material from our own archives as we scan the materials.

A Note About Our CCHS Founder

It is significant to note that our true "founder" has yet to be revealed. Over time, with the lack of a central repository for records and the rise and fall in the organization's activity through the decades, more than one individual has been named as such, which is understandable. Throughout our history there have been those special people with the ability to inspire others to recommit to our mission, and their stories inspire us still. If you have material to donate, stories to share, or information about any of the individuals that served the Champaign County Humane Society in the past, please contact Barbara Meyer at

Read About the 2005 “Shelter to Shelter” Campaign

Learn how CCHS was able to help the animal victims of Katrina, with your support.