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  • Writer's pictureSusan Houser

Washington, DC

Washington, DC, the nation’s capital, had a population of 602,000 at the 2010 census and is growing rapidly. The city is surrounded by densely populated urban areas in Maryland and Virginia, and the metropolitan area has a population of 5,700,000.

The Washington Humane Society (WHS) is an animal welfare agency chartered by Congress that has been in existence since 1870. WHS provides animal control and animal sheltering for the district. The shelter states on its website that “[t]he Animal Control Facility primarily houses dogs, cats, and pocket pets, but never turns any animal away.” It describes itself as “the open access shelter in the nation’s capital.”

WHS has a comprehensive set of programs, including a Behavior and Learning Center that provides training and play groups for shelter dogs and answers questions from the public, a community cat program that provides TNR, an affordable, high-volume spay-neuter center, a Safe Haven program for pets who are victims of domestic violence or abuse,  and a task force for lost and found animals. This 2013 report provides more information on WHS intake and programs.

Zenit Chughtai, a communications specialist with WHS, told the media that WHS had a live release rate of 87% in 2014. Intake was up slightly at 10,540 animals, as compared to 10,474 in 2013. Chughtai credited the shelter’s adoption promotions, including a “Petzilla: Adopt a Cuddle Monster” promotion last May, for the increase in their live release rate.

WHS reported a live release rate of 80%, including wildlife, in 2013, so the shelter’s step up to 87% is significant. In an article that appeared in January 2014, a shelter spokesman attributed the shelter’s improvement in recent years to several factors, including new adoption policies, off-site adoption events, discounted and free adoptions, an expanded foster program, the community cat program, and a program to work with landlords. He also credited a new perception on the part of the public about the shelter, noting that in the past the shelter had been seen as “a dark, dreary place where animals come to die.”

In addition to WHS, the District of Columbia is home to the Washington Animal Rescue League (WARL), which was founded in 1914. WARL has a full-service veterinary clinic that provides discounted care for the pets of income-qualified residents of the district and 14 surrounding counties. WARL also offers discounted spaying and neutering regardless of the owner’s income or residence. WARL reported an 89% live release rate for 2012 with an intake of 1973 dogs and cats and 89% for 2013 with intake of 2343.

Washington, D.C., is counted in the Running Totals as an 80%-90% community.



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