About the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria
Helping Animals, Supporting Community
Since 1946, the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria has been a resource for our community and a shelter for homeless animals. Through adoptions, spay and neuter assistance, education and community service and outreach, the League plays a key role in promoting responsible pet care across Northern Virginia. The League has contracted with the City of Alexandria to provide animal care, control and sheltering services since 1989. As part of our contract with the City, we operate the Vola Lawson Animal Shelter, an open-admission facility accepting any and all animals brought to us. We have made a commitment that if an animal is in need, we will provide the care that every animal so richly deserves. 
We place more than 1,300 companion animals, including dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, iguanas, chinchillas and many more, in permanent, loving homes each year. An additional 300 stray pets are reunited with their owners through the League annually. Our specially-trained staff also assist area wildlife that have been injured or are in distress—with the ultimate goal of releasing them back into their natural habitat or transferring them to licensed wildlife rehabilitators for care and eventual release. 
The League has a vibrant volunteer corps of 200 animal lovers who support our 40+ full and part-time professional staff. In everything we do, League staff and volunteers demonstrate that love and compassion are just as important as food and water for the animals in our care. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the League’s relationship with the Vola Lawson Animal Shelter?

  • The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria (AWLA) is an independent, non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization that was founded in 1946. In 1989, the League entered into a contract with the City of Alexandria to operate the animal shelter and perform animal care and control services for the City. The Vola Lawson Animal Shelter is a municipal building that is operated and maintained by the AWLA. More than 40 full- and part-time AWLA employees (and more than 200 AWLA volunteers) care for our temporary residents, provide community outreach and education and run our adoption program. Although we have a close working relationship with the City, we are an independent organization with our own Board of Directors, staff and operating policies.

Does the City finance the AWLA?

  • Approximately one-third of the League’s annual operating budget of $2.8 million comes from our contract with the City. The League must raise the remaining two-thirds through direct appeals, special events and other fundraising efforts. The League relies on generous community support to enable us to provide our residents with quality care and to be a resource for pet owners throughout Northern Virginia.

What is the League’s service area?

  • Although we are based in Alexandria, the League serves much of Northern Virginia and the metro DC area.  Residents of any jurisdiction are welcome to meet with and apply for our adoptable animals. A recent review of the AWLA’s animal intake statistics revealed that approximately 50% of the animals were surrendered by residents from surrounding communities, including Fairfax County and Arlington County at 41% and 9%, respectively. Another 20% of the incoming animals were surrendered from other nearby locations including Prince George’s County, Washington DC, Prince William County and other jurisdictions.
  • The AWLA operates animal control for the City of Alexandria. Those residing in Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William or other surrounding counties must contact their respective municipality for any animal control concerns.

I donate to HSUS and/or the ASPCA. Does my donation help the League?

  • No, the AWLA is an independent non-profit organization caring for animals in our community. We do not receive funding from HSUS, the ASPCA, the American Humane Association, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary or any similar, national-level groups. The AWLA relies on donor support to help us provide shelter and care to our animal residents. All the funds we raise are used to operate the Vola Lawson Animal Shelter, care for our animal residents and provide community outreach and support with the ultimate goal of ending animal homelessness.

Does the AWLA operate a no-kill shelter?

  • The AWLA has, since its inception, operated as an “open admission” shelter. “Open admission” means that the AWLA accepts any animal who comes through the door.  This is in contrast with so-called “No-Kill” or “Limited Admission” shelters or groups, which limit their intake only to those animals for which there is space or that meet their adoption criteria (i.e., no major health issues; no aggression/behavior issues; already spayed/neutered; etc.) and refuse to accept animals above that capacity or their “adoption criteria.”

What happens to animals brought to the shelter?

  • Every animal brought to our shelter is treated as an individual, regardless of his or her breed or age. League staff use widely-accepted behavior evaluation standards and meet with every animal multiple times before making any decisions as to whether an animal will enter the adoption program.
  • Our first concern is one of safety. We evaluate every animal to ensure that he or she will be a safe, welcome addition to an adoptive home. The League makes every effort to not place aggressive or behaviorally unsound animals in adoptive homes. Animals displaying severe aggression, behavioral problems or terminal medical problems will be humanely euthanized.
  • Once an animal enters the adoption program, he or she will be spayed or neutered, microchipped, fully vaccinated and placed on the adoption floor to meet with potential adopters. There is no set time limit for our adoptable animals. As long as the animal remains healthy and behaviorally sound, he or she will have a space in our adoption program.

When can I visit the adoptable animals? Where are you located?

  • Please click here for our address and hours of operation.

My pet is lost. What should I do?

  • Call the League (703-746-4774) and file a lost report. Check our Lost Pet page for other suggestions.

I have to surrender my pet. What should I do?

My pet has a behavior problem. Can you help?

  • Yes! Our experienced staff are glad to offer support and advice. Please call 703-746-5505 to speak with our Behavior and Training staff.

Do you have a foster program?

  • Yes! Please click here for more information about our foster program.

Do you need volunteers?

  • Yes! The AWLA has a dedicated group of volunteers to assist in all aspects of our organization.  Volunteer positions include everything from dog walkers to cat room volunteers, and those who assist with fundraising, community events, educational efforts, and other activities. Click here to learn more about volunteering.