Category: Blog
ARL Celebrates 125th Anniversary

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.”

ARL Rescues Community Cat and Kittens from New Bedford Restaurant Ceiling

Community cats savvy at finding warm and safe spaces

This past week the Animal Rescue League of Boston’s (ARL) Field Services Department rescued a community cat and her neonatal kittens who found themselves in a safe but precarious place – the ceiling of a New Bedford restaurant.

ARL has not received permission from the establishment and will be omitting the name of the restaurant.

According to staff and a local community cat feeder, the mom cat had shown up a couple of weeks earlier, however, concern began to grow once staff started to hear kittens mewing.

Due to the concern, the establishment contacted ARL.

Once on-scene, ARL Field Services agents were able to spot the kittens through a space between walls and a hole in the ceiling.

With one agent acting as a spotter, the second agent was able to reach into the space to scoop up the four neonatal kittens, and safely secure them for transport.

Once secured, agents worked to capture the mom cat by luring her with food and kittens sounds, but while she came near, she wouldn’t come close enough to trap.

Agents placed a humane trap in the ceiling space, and transported the kittens to ARL’s Boston Animal Care and Adoption Center for veterinary care and treatment.

Staff at the restaurant reported the mom cat went into the trap at around 11 p.m., and agents returned the next day to pick up the mom cat, transporting her to Boston to be reunited with her kittens.

The cat family has been placed into foster care to allow the mom cat a quiet environment to care for her kittens.

At just three-weeks-old, the kittens need time before they can be weened from their mother and find forever homes.

The mom cat will be spayed and will also be made available for adoption in the near future.

Community Cats

Community cats are incredibly resilient, and have a knack to find shelter for themselves and their offspring.

However, kittens born this time of year are incredibly vulnerable to the elements and other potential dangers and ARL urges the public that if a cat with offspring are discovered, to contact ARL Field Services for assistance.

ARL Field Services can be reached by calling (617) 426-9170 x563.

Severely Burned Cat Continues to Recover

Burned cat suffered second/third-degree burns covering more than 50 percent of body

We first introduced Era in December, a severely burned cat who was facing a long road to recovery, and her ongoing journey to heal continues at the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL).

The cat suffered burns covering over half her body, and has endured months of painful and invasive treatments to promote healing — and her progress has been amazing.

a gray and white cat wearing a veterinary cone

a gray and white cat lying down wearing a veterinary cone

Era was found in a work shed in Oxford, MA, in November, and once the extent of her injuries was realized, Oxford Animal Control contacted ARL for assistance and the cat was transported to ARL’s Boston Animal Care and Adoption Center for treatment.

ARL’s veterinary team assessed that second and third-degree burns were covering over half her body, and treatment has consisted of pain management and twice-weekly wound debridement to remove dead skin and exposing the new skin underneath to promote healing.

Initially it was unknown whether Era would be able to overcome her injuries, however, she is incredibly resilient and has responded very well to treatment, and will indeed get the second chance at life that she deserves.

It is still unknown what caused the burns and whether it was an intentional act, but ARL’s primary focus has been saving the animal’s life and preparing her for the next chapter in her life.

Era’s path to recovery is nearly complete, but with her healing at about 80 percent, she still has a way to go before going home.

How You Can Help

Era’s cost of care has exceeded $20,000, and ARL is asking the public for their continued support in helping Era and animals like her.

The cost of her care is roughly $1,000-1,500 per week and it is likely she’ll have to undergo at least another month of treatment before being adopted.

Anyone interested in supporting Era and animals like her can visit arlboston.org/donate.

International Women’s Day: Anna Harris Smith, ARL’s Founder Ahead of Her Time

Anna Harris Smith Founded ARL in 1899

Today, March 8, marks International Women’s Day, a global day to acknowledge and celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.

Anna Harris Smith, the founder of the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL), was a strong, compassionate, and persistent woman, who decided to change the landscape of animal welfare in the United States – 21 years before she had the legal right to vote.

A social worker from Dorchester, she took action after seeing the cruel mistreatment of Boston’s working horses and the hordes of stray and homeless animals living on the streets.

Appalled by what she was seeing on a daily basis, Anna Harris Smith penned an editorial for the Boston Evening Transcript, where she advocated for a centrally located shelter facility 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.”

Anna Harris Smith

Anna Harris Smith

In February 1899, 110 people gathered at the Park Street Church in Boston for the very first meeting of the Animal Rescue League of Boston, and soon after opened the first shelter in the City of Boston, located at 68 Carver Street.

In 1907, Anna purchased a sprawling property in Dedham to serve as a sanctuary for working horses and homeless animals, and ARL’s Dedham campus continues to serve thousands of animals in need every year.

Through 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, and used ARL as a model of how to form their own rescue societies.

Anna Harris Smith wrote and lectured extensively, tackling a host of humane issues of the time including the abandonment of pets, the abuse of working horses, transportation of livestock, and the importance of humane education for children.

In the first decades of the 20th-century, ARL’s work grew and Anna Harris Smith’s legacy was cemented.

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 Lasting Legacy

Anna Harris Smith’s motto was “kindness uplifts the world”, the cornerstone on which ARL was built.

ARL has expanded greatly since Anna Harris Smith’s passing and as animal welfare evolves over time, one thing remains constant – the resolve and dedication by every ARL employee and volunteer to continue to honor her memory to uplift the world by one act of kindness at a time.

You’re Invited: Anna Harris Smith Day of Service

125 years ago, Anna Harris Smith, a social worker from Dorchester, was called to action after seeing the cruel mistreatment of Boston’s working horses and the number of stray and homeless animals. She advocated for a centrally located shelter to care for them 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”.

On March 13, 1899, thanks to Anna’s efforts, the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) was officially incorporated and began helping millions of animals heal, find homes, and stay with their families, while protecting them from cruelty and neglect.

In honor of Anna’s legacy of kindness and commitment to animals, we are excited to announce the Anna Harris Smith Day of Service on March 13, 2024.

Imagine the impact of 125 caring individuals, inspired by Anna’s words, “Kindness uplifts the world,” coming together to make a difference through acts of service. Will you be one of them?

Here are 7 ways you can spread kindness on March 13:

  1. Stock ARL’s pet food pantry
    Donate pet food through ARL’s
    Amazon or Chewy wish lists and have them shipped directly to ARL; or purchase them in-store and drop them off at one of our Animal Care & Adoption Centers in Boston, Dedham, or Brewster.
  1. Brighten the day of a shelter pet
    Draw a photo, write words of encouragement, or download one of our coloring templates from Facebook.  Submit your creations to
    marketing@arlboston.org for us to print; or mail them to Animal Rescue League of Boston, Attn: Marketing, 10 Anna’s Place, Dedham, MA 02026. We will hang your cards and photos on the kennels and share them on our social media channels. You can also join us in person at our Dedham Animal Care & Adoption Center (55 Anna’s Place, Dedham, MA 02026) on March 13 from 3:30 – 6:00pm to make cards for animals.
  1. Leave a positive review
    Visit Great Nonprofits to leave a positive online review for your local non-profit, like ARL.
  1. Advocate for animals
    Contact advocacy@arlboston.org to learn more about our legislative agenda and how you can contact your legislator and ask them to support bills that protect animals.
  1. Be kind
    Do a random act of kindness in your community today. The possibilities are endless! Walk your neighbor’s dog, volunteer at your local library or nursing home, bring in treats for your coworkers, send a care package to a service member, give blood, or donate old sheets and towels to your local animal shelter.
  1. Get social
    Help spread the word and share ARL’s posts on
    Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
  1. Pay it forward
    Donate to Jeff’s Fund which helps offset the cost of waived or reduced adoption fees to help animals who may be overlooked due to their medical needs, age, or personality, find the homes they deserve.

Stray Puppy Found on Busy Neponset Circle

Stray puppy lucky to escape life-threatening circumstance

The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) recently took in a 10-week-old stray puppy who is lucky to be alive after being found along a high-traffic area in Boston.

The 10-week-old Chihuahua named Sparkle, was found this past week in the Neponset Circle area, along the on-ramp heading towards I-93.

The Good Samaritan who rescued her had seen the dog in the area for several days, however, when the small dog wandered towards the busy roadway, her rescuer sprang into action to save the dog.

Weighing just 3 pounds and being an all-black dog, Sparkle is incredibly lucky she wasn’t struck by a vehicle, and ARL is extremely grateful to her rescuer.

The Good Samaritan is a resident at the Pine Street Inn, and once brought to the inn, staff then took the puppy to ARL’s Boston Animal Care and Adoption Center.

Sparkle was frightened upon intake, and ARL’s veterinary team quickly gave her a thorough veterinary exam to make sure she was not injured and in sound health.

While she presented with an abnormal gait, the friendly and sweet puppy was determined to be in good overall health.

Sparkle was recently spayed, and was made available for adoption this past weekend.

Unsurprisingly, Sparkle quickly found her new family and is now thriving in her new home.

ARL again wishes to thank both the resident and staff at the Pine Street Inn for their actions in rescuing and likely saving the life of this young dog, who now has the forever home she deserves.

This rescue continues an amazing trend that ARL has seen in early 2024, as Good Samaritans have taken time out of their busy days to stop and help an animal in distress.

ARL salutes these acts of kindness, and thanks these Good Samaritans for being Champions for Animals in need!

ARL Sees Record-Setting Community Cat Intake

ARL only large MA animal welfare agency with dedicated Community Cat program

Following a record-setting 2023, the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) continues to see a dramatic increase in the intake of community cats.

In 2023, ARL took in nearly 900 cats through the Community Cat Program, including more than 400 kittens, which is the highest number of cats to come in through the program since its inception in 2017.

2024 has already been extremely busy, as ARL took in 68 community cats, including 22 kittens, in January – a 75 percent increase over the first month of 2023.

ARL is seeing dozens of community cats coming through its doors on a weekly basis, and is working to provide medical care, behavioral assessments and placing these animals into homes as quickly as possible.

ARL is the only large animal welfare organization in Massachusetts directing resources to help community cats, and thus far in 2024, ARL has taken in more than 100 community cats from areas throughout the state.

Current data estimates there are approximately 700,000 community cats living in communities across the Commonwealth, 70,000 in Boston alone.

While community cats are incredibly resilient, kittens born outdoors are extremely vulnerable to fluctuating weather conditions, predators, illness, among others, and sadly many don’t survive.

Community cats and kittens can be found literally anywhere – under decks, in basements, woodpiles, dog houses – anywhere a mother cat can provide relative safety and warmth for her offspring.

ARL is committed to caring for these animals and reminds the public to be on the lookout for community cats and kittens.

If you come across these cats and kittens, it’s important not to attempt to move them, instead contact ARL’s Field Services Department for assistance at (617) 426-9170 (option 1).

Once the cats and kittens are rescued, ARL provides veterinary care, including vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery, and the cats are also assessed behaviorally to determine adoption potential.

Adult cats who are truly feral and do not want to rely on humans for care are returned to the field.

ARL Provides Corrective Surgery for Pair of Cats

Cats needing surgery came to ARL from separate circumstances

No matter how they come to the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL), every animal is treated with the same level of compassion, care, and medical attention.

ARL recently performed surgery on a pair of cats that arrived at the organization through different circumstances.

Paul, an 8-year-old male cat was rescued off the streets in Raynham, MA, while Elise, a 2-year-old female cat, was part of a transport of cats from an overcrowded shelter in Texas.

Both animals arrived at ARL’s Dedham Animal Care and Adoption Center with varying degrees of medical issues – for Paul, he had dental disease and a number of scars and healing wounds due to a life of living on the streets, while Elise was diagnosed with a heart murmur and mild dental disease.

However, these cats had one medical affliction that required a surgical solution – entropion.

Entropion is a condition where the eyelid is inverted, which can cause painful irritation and if left untreated, could result in corneal scratches, inflammation, discharge, or possible blindness.

ARL’s veterinary team performed surgery on both cats to correct the condition, and once recovered from surgery, with the entropion irritation or pain no loner being an issue, the behavior for both animals drastically improved and their personalities were on full display.

Not surprisingly, once made available for adoption, Paul and Elise quickly found their perfect situations and are thriving in their new homes.

About ARL Community and Shelter Medicine

ARL’s Community and Shelter Medicine Department provides care for every animal at ARL’s three Animal Care and Adoption Centers, while also serving animals and their families in the communities where they live through the Spay Waggin’, Community Surgical Clinic, and Wellness Waggin’.

The Spay Waggin’, a mobile veterinary surgical unit, provides low-cost spay and neuter services to animals in Metro Boston, the South Shore, South Coast, and Cape Cod and the Islands.

ARL’s Community Surgical Clinic provides both veterinary and surgical services twice weekly at ARL’s Dedham local to animals and people in need, including the Community Cat Program.

The Wellness Waggin’ is a pet wellness clinic for residents of Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, Hyde Park and East Boston.

ARL Legislative Agenda Spotlight: Housing

The Animal Rescue League of Boston’s Legislative Agenda covers a wide range of policy areas, from strengthening laws prohibiting cruelty, to increasing protections at animal-related businesses, to providing for additional funding for animal care.

We know that policies to improve the lives of animals are not just focused on criminal cruelty cases, but can include creating communities where animals are able to stay in their homes.

Housing is one of the top concerns of many families in Massachusetts.

Amid rising costs and a competitive housing market, the stress of finding and maintaining housing can be a significant burden.

For many Massachusetts families with pets, this burden can be even more significant.

Breed-Based Discrimination

Archaic attitudes and narratives have created widespread discrimination and limits around allowing certain size and breeds of dogs into housing.

There are no protections for those looking for rental housing who may have a dog.

Discrimination on size and weight is common.

Landlords may also refuse to rent to tenants based on the breed of the dog, perceived or actual.

In a rental market with limited options, certain dog owners may find that they have even less options.

Prohibitions on breed is not limited to just renters.

Even landlords who want to allow for dogs regardless of breed may be restricted because their insurance rates or coverage limits them.

Many insurance companies will refuse to insure homes that have dogs of certain “banned breeds”.

These lists are comprehensive, often including breeds of dogs outside of what people may assume.

For homeowners who already own or want to bring home a dog that may be considered one of these breeds, they face limited options and may end up paying higher premiums.

Studies have shown that breed identification is a difficult task even by animal professionals.

More importantly, breed does not determine a dog’s temperament or danger to others.

Massachusetts law already allows for a lengthy process to designate a “dangerous dog,” based on documented behavior.

No part of this process allows for consideration of breed.

Housing related concerns are by far the top reason that animals are surrendered to shelters.

Breed-based policies can even impact animals in shelters, as foster homes may be limited based on size and breed of the dog and dogs resembling these breeds may have longer lengths of stay as they have less adoptive homes.

Policies that help families stay together provide for better outcomes for pets and people.

Housing Legislation

For a number of sessions, ARL has supported legislation that would prohibit breed-based discrimination in housing and insurance.

An Act to maintain stable housing for families with pets in an economic crisis and beyond (filed by Representative Dave Rogers, Representative Montaño and Senator Gobi) was reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Housing, Chaired by Representative Arciero and Senator Edwards.

In addition to breed-based protections, this legislation has several provisions relating to housing and emergencies to protect pets, ensuring that in states of emergency families don’t have to choose between their pet and safety.

We are thankful to the Joint Committee on Housing for recognizing the impact these policies have on what is already a very difficult housing market.

Keeping pets and people together requires innovative solutions, and preventing evictions and separations of families based on stereotypes is a great first step.

Stay tuned for more information as legislation moves through the State House, and learn more about the bills on ARL’s Legislative Agenda.

Several Animals in ARL’s Care Thanks to Acts of Kindness

Good Samaritans paying it forward with acts of kindness

A number of animals have recently come into the care of the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) thanks to kind-hearted and compassionate Good Samaritans that acted when seeing an animal in distress, and these acts of kindness made a tremendous difference in the lives of the animals involved.

Whether found in a parking lot, basement, or along the side of the road, the animals recently brought to ARL by Good Samaritans were in varying degrees of health, but all had one thing in common – compassionate and caring individuals who took time out of their day to help an animal in need.

Peanut Butter was found along a busy road in Dedham.

Along with a handful of cats who have already found their permanent homes, ARL is currently caring for an 11-month-old male Pitbull named Peanut Butter, who was recently found along a busy road in Dedham and was in dire need of rescuing.

Wandering along the side of Route 109 at night, the dark-colored dog was in danger of being struck by a vehicle, and additionally, the night he was found, temperatures were in the teens, adding to the animal’s vulnerability.

Seeing Peanut Butter on the side of the road, the Good Samaritans took action, pulling over and getting the dog into the vehicle.

The rescuers brought him home for the night and the next day brought him to ARL’s Dedham Animal Care and Adoption Center.

While in good overall health, Peanut Butter was not wearing a collar, tags and was not microchipped.

ARL made efforts to track down his owner, but to no avail.

He is now available for adoption, and ARL looks forward to finding him the forever home he deserves.

ARL is grateful to all those who pause from their busy daily schedules to help an animal in need, and encourages anyone who finds an animal to contact their local animal control and animal welfare organization to ensure the animal receives the care they need.