ARL Has Helped over 6.2 Million Animals Since 1899 – Celebrate with Us!

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125 Years of Being an Unwavering Champion for Animals in Need

Since 1899, ARL has responded to the needs of animals and supported a community in which animals are protected, safe, and healthy – in homes and out of shelters.

Our “reason for being” dates back to our founding in 1899 when Anna Harris Smith, a social worker from Dorchester took action when she saw both the cruel mistreatment of Boston’s working horses, and the number of stray and homeless animals living on the streets. In a vividly worded editorial in the Boston Evening Transcript, Anna advocated 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.

Anna understood that true change required more than just responding in times of crisis—it required a long-term vision. And so, on February 7, 1899 110 people gathered at the Park Street Church for the very first meeting of the Animal Rescue League of Boston.

Through Anna’s fervor for humane education, and the growing impact of her work for animals in need, communities across the country began to take notice – and used ARL as a model of how to form their own rescue societies. ARL became much more than a local shelter!

“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.”

As we look ahead into the next chapter of our organization’s rich history, our task is to ensure that ARL remains an unwavering champion for animals in need, as well as an essential resource for the people who care for them, and a committed partner for communities where they live.

There are many accomplishments to celebrate in the past 125 years, however, animal welfare remains at a critical juncture.  More animals are arriving at shelters across the nation, staying longer than ever before and it is a tough time to be a pet owner.  Pet food prices have risen significantly and both food and housing instability have been leading to more pet surrenders.

The good news is, thanks to you, we can make a difference!  The results we can achieve when we all work together are remarkable. Your love of animals helps ARL do more than we ever could have imagined, thank you!

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ARL Milestones

  • Anna Harris Smith


    Animal Rescue League of Boston founded by Anna Harris Smith, and incorporated on March 13. The first Animal Care & Adoption Center and veterinary outpatient clinic, opens on Carver Street in Boston

  • man outside with a horse


    Chamberlain Farm in Dedham purchased by Anna Harris Smith and renamed Pine Ridge Home of Rest for Horses

  • First motorized animal ambulance


    First motorized animal ambulance put into service

  • Animal agent with horse


    First Humane Law Enforcement agents begin investigations of the treatment of Boston’s working horses, with assistance from Field Services agents

  • ARL agent outside of vehcile


    Expanded services, and dedicated animal care agents to Cape Cod

  • Special officers outside of ARL


    The Massachusetts Department of Public Safety includes ARL Humane Officers as Special State Police Officers

  • Boston Animal Care & Adoption Center


    Moved to 10 Chandler Street in Boston, current location of Boston Animal Care & Adoption Center and Boston Veterinary Care

  • Provincetown shelter


    First Cape Cod Animal Care & Adoption Center opened in Provincetown

  • Brewster Animal Care & Adoption Center


    Moved to East Brewster, current location of Cape Cod Animal Care & Adoption Center

  • ARL volunteer with horse


    Volunteer Engagement department established

  • Dedham Animal Care & Adoption Center


    Animal Care & Adoption Center opened in Dedham

  • Spay Waggin'


    Spay Waggin’, mobile spay/neuter vehicle, begins serving dog and cat owners in Eastern MA, Cape Cod, and Martha’s Vineyard

  • Dog sitting looking up at ARL staff member


    Behavior & Enrichment department established

  • MA state house


    Animal Advocacy department established

  • Wellness Waggin'


    Wellness Waggin’, a mobile low-cost veterinary care vehicle, began serving pet owners in Boston, in partnership with Action for Boston Community Development

  • ARL staff member handing a bag of pet food to a person


    Keep Pets S.A.F.E. (Supporting Animals and Families Everyday) program launched to provide food, supplies, temporary housing, and primary veterinary care to pets in our community

  • ARL Dedham building


    Foundation for the Future secured with a new building on our Dedham campus that houses Administrative offices, Mobile Veterinary vehicles, and Education & Training Center

  • classy award badge


    Recognized with a Classy Award for Social Innovation for community partnerships and social good leading to social change

  • kitten being held by ARL staff member


    Over 6.2 Million Animals Helped Since 1899!

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Our Four-Footed Friends® Archives

Our Four-Footed Friends cover from 1902

Did you know… that Our Four-Footed Friends has been around since 1902? ARL’s magazine was started by our founder Anna Harris Smith, when she assumed the role of ARL President.

Thanks to our local community partner, Boston Public Library, past issues of Our Four-Footed Friends have been digitally archived for all to read.


ARL’s Rich 125 Year History

Coming soon