The Washington Animal Rescue League, founded in 1914, opened the first animal shelter in Washington, D.C. for stray and abused dogs, cats, and horses.  Through the shelter, the League also provided free veterinary care for those who could not afford it and held an annual Christmas food drive for companion animals and working horses.


Many of Washington’s elite have taken an interest in the League. Our honorary presidents have included Mamie Eisenhower, Jacqueline Kennedy and Lady Bird Johnson.

Having outgrown its O Street, NW, quarters, the League moved to 71 Oglethorpe Street, NW, in 1977.  The Medical Center was built in 1996 to serve the shelter animals and continue the League’s tradition of aiding the companion animals of the low-income community.

In 2006, the League completed a revolutionary transformation, making it one of the world’s most progressive animal rehabilitation centers. The shelter was re-designed entirely from the animals’ point of view to promote the physical, mental, and social healing of animals recovering from a previous life of trauma.

See pictures of the shelter as it looks now here.

Steel-bar and concrete cages were replaced with glass enclosed dog dens, cat condos, and puppy pads—a more humane, efficient, and responsible way to shelter homeless animals and set them up for a successful transition into their new homes.

At the same time, the Medical Center was renovated to accommodate more extensive procedures and treatments and to accommodate the 7,000 animal patients that it now receives annually.

The mission of the Washington Animal Rescue League is to rescue, rehabilitate, and re-home animals who have nowhere else to go. We are committed to strengthening and preserving the human-animal bond by supporting animals in their homes through affordable veterinary care, community outreach, and education.

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