For the first time since it was chartered by Congress in 1870, the Washington Humane Society has its own animal shelter.

The doors and cages were opened Saturday at the Humane Society's new shelter and office complex at 7319 Georgia Ave. NW. for members and guests, including several canines and felines.

The building, formerly a seafood carryout, was purchased last fall for $34,000 and was renovated over seven-month period for an additional $30,000.

"Our new building was made possible through donations by our 1,400 members and contributors. We receive no federal or city support although we are the only ones in the city with a 24-hour, seven day-a-week operation," said Bianca Beary, president of the Washington Humane Society.

"We respond to every and any call that is animal-related and we desparately needed this shelter."

Beary estimates that Society's operating costs will be cut in half by the move.

"Prior to this we relied on members and veterinarians to house, feed and treat abused or homeless animals. Often this would run around $6 per day and would incovenience many people when we would receive an emergency call at 1 a.m. Now, with our own facility, we can provide these same services for only $3 a day. That is a tremendous saving of money as well as time and energy."

The two'story, brightly lit shelter is a welcome change from the Society's two-room offices above the Audubon Bookstore in Georgetown.

The shelter is capable of housing more than 25 dogs and 15 cats. Dogs are housed in seven large cinder block run (cages are not used) and two pens; cats in large cages the size of two regular cages combined.

In addition, there is a large area where animals are bathed, treated or put to sleep, if necessary. The Humane Society allows the public to witness euthanasia. This service is provided free.

"We consider the service we provide as complementary to those of the Washington Animal rescue League and D.C. pound," said Jean Goldenberg, executive director.

The Washington Animal Rescue League has a 24-hour lost and found service and responds to rescue calls from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

"Since we are a legal agency empowered by Congress to enforce the anti-cruelty laws in the District, we sometimes hold animals for evidence for as long as three months while awaiting trial . . . We also provide an adoption service in which prospective owners are carefully screened," said Goldenberg.

The Society's 10 volunteers responded to more than 190 rescue calls in the month of March. In addition to their rescue operations, the Humane Society, which operates solely in the District, provides lost and found and educational services.

Guests of honor at Saturday's open house were two animal celebrities, Sandy, star of the current hit musical "Annie" at the Kennedy Center, and Arff, his understudy. Although Arff was seen roughhousing with Sandy on the freshly waxed floors, no harms was intended.