Washington Animal Rescue League marks 100 years


One of 10 dogs rescued from the streets of Sochi during the Winter Olympics looks at photographers from its new home at the Washington Animal Rescue League. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)
March 30

As the Washington Animal Rescue League celebrates its 100th anniversary Monday, officials have their eye on the next 100 years.

“We want to increase our volume by 100 percent; that’s how we’re addressing the needs of the next century,” shelter chief executive Bob Ramin said.

The shelter was founded in 1914 to house and rehabilitate mistreated workhorses, Ramin said. With the popularization of automobiles in the 1920s, the shelter changed its focus to dogs and cats.

More than 2,000 shelter animals were adopted in 2013, but many of the visitors on a recent Saturday morning were there only to play with the pets-in-waiting.

“We like it because it’s a beautiful facility and it’s not depressing to come here,” said Chevy Chase resident Carolyn Hammonds, who has been visiting the shelter in Northwest Washington with her daughters for seven years.

The shelter is privately funded and most of its animals come from overcrowded regional shelters or rescue missions affiliated with national animal-protection organizations.

“We take animals and rescue them on site — whether it’s medical, behavioral or people surrendering their pets to us,” Ramin said.

The shelter began participating in national animal rescues in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans and displaced thousands of people and their pets. Since then it has partnered with Humane Society International and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to work on national and international rescue missions. Most recently, the shelter partnered with Humane Society International to rescue 10 stray dogs from Sochi, the Russian city that hosted the Winter Olympics.

“I think it was the best experience of my life,” shelter employee Miles Gray said of working with the Sochi dogs. “It brought awareness that there are dogs all over the world that need our help.”

The shelter includes a medical center where sick and injured animals are treated, and it also has a behavioral-training program to help socialize dogs, employee Matt Williams said.

Ramin said the league hopes to expand the medical center and quarantine area for dogs with a building it bought next door. Fundraising to pay for renovations will begin this year, with hopes to open the building in 2016.

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