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. 


The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria operates the Vola Lawson Animal Shelter under contract to the City of Alexandria. We provide a temporary safe haven for stray and lost animals and animals given up by their owners. The League is defined as an “open admission” shelter, meaning we turn no animal away*. As an open-admission shelter, we take in ill and injured animals and those that are not immediate candidates for adoption. We receive pets that are no longer wanted, pets from people who can no longer care for them, as well as stray animals.

Before You Surrender a Pet

When an animal is surrendered to the League, his/her owner relinquishes all rights to that animal—and this decision is final. We urge anyone surrendering a pet to consider all possible alternatives before surrendering their ownership of their animal. The following points may be helpful:

  • A friend or family member may be willing to help. Please contact others who may be able to care for your pet either on a temporary or long-term basis.
  • Many behavioral problems can be resolved. The League offers behavior and training assistance to help pet owners resolve challenging behaviors. Contact the League at 703-746-5505 for this support.
  • Pets should not be “set free,” or left in a park or woods. Pets lack the skills to survive on their own and often suffer starvation or traumatic injury.
  • Do not leave your pet behind in your former home, assuming someone will find him/her—this does not always happen in time for the animal.
  • Never give your pet away to a stranger. Not everyone is responsible or able to provide adequate pet care. Some people view animals as commodities that can be used for inhumane purposes and/or sold for research.

If you have exhausted all other possibilities, bring your pet to the League.

Necessary Documentation

If you choose to relinquish ownership of your pet, the League will ask for the following:

  • A valid form of photo ID
  • Any pertinent records pertaining to the pet (medical records, a bill of sale, etc)
  • A brief profile of the pet’s habits and behaviors (which you will complete at the shelter)
  • Proof of Alexandria residency – there is a fee for non-Alexandria residents

The League requires that the pet’s actual owner relinquish custody of the animal. If you are bringing in an owned pet that is not yours, we require the animal’s actual owner to sign the animal over to the League.

What Happens Next?

At the shelter, all animals receive necessary veterinary care, nutritious food, exercise and plenty of love and attention from our experienced staff. Animals determined to be suitable for adoption are placed in our adoption program. There is no set time limit for how long an animal can remain in our adoption program. As long as an animal maintains general good health, a sound temperament and we have space, we will keep a pet for weeks, sometimes months. We may put some animals who are sick, underage, or who would benefit from behavioral intervention in foster care and return them to the adoption program at a later time. We work hard to give second chances to every healthy or rehabilitatable animal, and try to avoid euthanasia when appropriate and when possible.

We humanely euthanize those animals that are not candidates for adoption due to medical or behavioral problems. We also euthanize aggressive animals that are determined to be a potential threat to the community and those sick or injured animals that are unrehabilitatable given our resource limitations.

There is no charge for giving up an animal, though we will ask if you are able to make a donation to help care for all the animals here at the shelter. Animals may be given up any time during regular business hours.

* Owners surrendering animals who have bitten within the last 10 days, and are therefore in their rabies quarantine period, will be asked to take that animal to their local jurisdiction so that the quarantine can be followed by the appropriate jurisdiction.