Must Love Dogs
(or cats, birds, Etc.)

Arlington County, Virginia, 1944 -- a small group of local animal owners is growing concerned about the number of stray animals roaming the area. The closest the county has to a proper animal shelter is a dog pound. On June 7th, 1944, they incorporate the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. The first goal of the new league -- to build a shelter.

Seventy years later, the AWLA boasts a full-time staff and more than 450 dedicated volunteers, all while operating a first-rate animal shelter. “We have five-star cat facilities,” said CEO Neil Trent.

The mission of the AWLA is to “improve the lives of animals” while helping to “create a world where all companion animals find compassionate and permanent homes,” according to the AWLA website.

The shelter offers a variety of community services in addition to traditional adoption programs: spay-and-neuter programs, animal behavior helplines, and even low-cost loans to those who wish to adopt a pet but cannot afford the costs upfront.  Neil cites the support of both the shelter’s volunteers and the surrounding community for the success of its programs.

“We are very fortunate that our staff love what they do, and we are supported by such a great volunteer corps. The animals are less stressed because they are socialized everyday,” he said.

The shelter has earned the community’s faith: Many residents of Arlington will call AWLA when an abandoned or abused animal is found, because they trust the organization will provide the animal with the best care.

Despite myriad programs for animals and numerous awards, the team at AWLA is looking to achieve more. “Currently, about only 27 percent of domestic pets are adopted through shelters. I want to increase that number,” said Neil

Currently, AWLA is developing various animal housing programs, including the new “Adopt-It-Forward” program, where individuals or businesses can sponsor the adoption of an animal by paying for their adoption fee. The long-term goal is simply to “be more effective” at everything it is currently doing, says Trent.

Love animals? Want to volunteer with the AWLA? There are opportunities for grooming, socializing, taking animals to be showcased and more! Check out the AWLA website for more information!

Editor's Note: All photos on this page are from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington's Facebook page, where you can find up-to-date photos and information about AWLA and animals available for adoption.

About the Author: Marisa Weidner is a graduate of The College of William and Mary. She has volunteered as a teacher in Belize, and in homeless shelters in the United States. Marisa chronicles her explorations of DC on her blog, The Curated City