Originating in 1914, the Washington Animal Rescue League (WARL) is historically significant for its early role in DC’s civic and humanitarian efforts to provide humane treatment for local animals. This women-organized operation began with a broad concern for the treatment of horses, a concern which soon expanded to include the various animals of Washington, including stray cats and dogs. Early iterations of the shelter took in cats, dogs, and horses—and euthanized the majority of these animals, many of whom seemed too sickly or undesirable for family adoption. Over the years, the WARL increasingly began to adopt out animals that entered the shelter, typically holding animals for 3-5 days before making a decision to euthanize or offer for adoption.
The Washington Animal Rescue League continued to grow and expand its facilities in the following decades, and in 1932 the organization moved into its first purpose-built shelter. Designed specifically for animal care, the property at 71 O Street NW in the Truxton Circle neighborhood held 50 spaces for dogs, 12 for cats, and 2 for horses. Equipped with a veterinary clinic, dog run, and a caretaker’s apartment, the WARL shelter and animal hospital provided a significant community service and constituted the first official animal shelter in Washington, DC.
By the 1960s, the building was in need of repair and the District government proved unsupportive in pursuing any type of renovation. By 1977, the WARL moved to 71 Oglethorpe Street NW in Manor Park. The organization is now known as the Humane Rescue Alliance and the organization continues to “honor more than 150 years of commitment to protecting animals, supporting families, and advocating for positive change to create a world where all animals can thrive.”
The original animal shelter building at 71 O Street NW is currently used by the nonprofit So Others May Eat (S.O.M.E), which provides food to unhoused individuals and other District residents in need.
DC Inventory: December 20, 2018
National Register: June 22, 2020