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An Unwavering Champion for Animals in Need

For 125 years, The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) has responded to the needs of animals and the people who care about them. In fact, we are often the first to respond. With over 1,000 dedicated volunteers and 100 staff members, ARL lends unwavering support to local animals, families, and neighborhoods.

We provide outstanding veterinary care, adoption, and rescue services. We also confront the root causes of animal cruelty and neglect through special police investigation and advocacy aimed at strengthening the laws that protect animals. Last year alone, we served more than 20,000 animals in need.


Then and Now Veterinary photos

Today, we increasingly focus on prevention and the impact we can have on more animals; keeping them out of shelters and in the communities where they belong. This ambitious call to action is reflected in our new vision for the future.

ARL does not receive any government or public funding and relies solely on the generosity of compassionate individuals to carry out our important work to help animals and communities in need. We ask all those who share our goals to reaffirm a commitment to the future we all hope to achieve. Together, we can make it happen!

ARL Marks its 125th Anniversary

For twelve decades, 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 harris smith
Anna Harris Smith

Anna Harris Smith

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. Soon after, ARL moved into its first headquarters at 68 Carver Street in Boston.

In 1907, Anna purchased a sprawling property in Dedham as a sanctuary for working horses and homeless animals. Over the years, the work of ARL expanded well beyond Boston, across all of Eastern Massachusetts, and onto the Cape Cod regions.

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 and 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. See ARL’s vision for the future.

Thank you to our incredible supporters—from the first 110 members who gathered in 1899 to today’s vibrant and passionate community of donors and volunteers!

dog wearing party hat
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Did You Know…

Historical photo of ARL's Dedham Barn

The red barn in ARL’s logo reminds us of where we came from and stands as an important symbol of protection against the suffering of animals to this day. Anna Harris Smith dedicated significant resources to helping Boston’s working horses. Many neglected and abused horses received care in the haven of the red barn at our Dedham location.

Historical photos of ARL Pine Ridge

Established in 1907, ARL’s Pine Ridge Pet Cemetery is the oldest pet cemetery in the country owned and operated by an animal welfare agency. The cemetery is situated on the beautiful grounds of the former summer sanctuary for the city’s working horses – and summer home to ARL’s founder, Anna Harris Smith. In fact, Anna’s own beloved pets were among the first to be buried here.

Historical photo of ARL's first vehicle

In 1912, ARL purchased its first motorized vehicle. Until then, horse-drawn carriages acted as ambulances that were only able to provide service to local Boston residents. A motorized ambulance allowed ARL to take their efforts further, encompassing most of Eastern Massachusetts. Due to much success, three more motorized vehicles were acquired in 1918.