ARL celebrates 125th anniversary with Anna Harris Smith Day of Service

On March 13, the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) marked a momentous milestone, celebrating its 125th anniversary.

ARL held its first meeting in February 1899, but was officially incorporated on March 13, 1899.

To celebrate the occasion, ARL honored its founder with the Anna Harris Smith Day of Service.

The Day of Service included a number of community-based efforts to provide pet care and wellness services, staying true to Anna’s forward-thinking vision.

ARL’s Founder 

Anna Harris Smith, a social worker from Dorchester, took action when she witnessed both the cruel mistreatment of Boston’s working horses, and the hordes of stray and homeless animals living on the streets.

She publicly voiced her opinion in an editorial in the Boston Evening Transcript, advocating for a centrally located shelter for the rescue and care of homeless cats and dogs and remarked, “While getting dogs and cats off the street is work worth doing, the teaching of thoughtful kindness is the work that changes families, communities, and a nation.”

Establishing Boston’s first animal shelter combined with Anna’s fervor for humane education and the growing impact of her work for animals in need, communities across the United States began to take notice – ARL was used as a model for others to form their own rescue societies.

True then as it is today – ARL is much more than a local animal shelter!

Anna committed the rest of her days to helping animals in need, expanding ARL’s services to Dedham and Cape Cod, establishing humane law enforcement, advocating humane education for children, and countless other accomplishments to cement her lasting legacy.

Upon her passing in 1929, the American Humane Association stated “The passing of Mrs. Smith removes the outstanding woman in the history of animal protection in America. So long as humane history is preserved there will stand out among its records the name and fame of Mrs. Smith.”

A Day of Service

On the day of ARL’s anniversary, the organization set out in the communities the organization serves to continue its important work.

ARL was honored by Boston City Councilor Ed Flynn at Boston City Hall, in a resolution commending ARL’s 125-year history and ongoing work and advocacy for animals in need.

ARL’s community-based services were also scattered throughout the city offering pet wellness services to support both pets and the people who care for them.

Activities included ARL’s Keep Pets S.A.F.E. (Supporting Animals and Families Everyday) providing wellness services at a senior housing complex in Dorchester in collaboration with Boston Senior Homecare, ARL’s Wellness Waggin’ providing low-cost pet wellness services in Dorchester in collaboration with Action for Boston Community Development, ARL’s Spay Waggin’ stopping at the Franklin Park Zoo to provide spay and neuter surgeries for more than two dozen pets, the zoo also provided a space for local Keep Pets S.A.F.E. clients to pick up pet food and supplies.

Additional activities included hosting local children at ARL’s Dedham Animal Care and Adoption Center for “Coloring for Kindness” where kids had the chance to meet the animals and create inspirational anniversary cards to be placed on kennels.

Looking Ahead

Over the past 125 years, ARL has embodied Anna Harris Smith’s vision of thoughtful kindness by helping over 6.2 million animals heal, find homes, and stay with their families, while protecting them from cruelty and neglect.

Keeping true to Anna Harris Smith’s vision, ARL devotes its resources to helping animals thrive, keeping pets and people together, partnering with local non-profit organizations and creating the next generation of compassionate animal advocates.

“Our rich 125-year history is a huge source of pride for us,” says ARL President & CEO, Dr. Edward Schettino. “ARL’s present and future are still rooted in Anna Harris Smith’s original vision and beliefs about animal welfare, its intersection with human well-being, and what our role must be in maintaining both.”