March may mark Women’s History Month, but 2023 also marks the 154th anniversary of the Animal Sheltering and Adoptions movement in America. It began in Philadelphia in 1869 with women — 30 of them to be exact — who formally joined forces on April 14, 1869 to establish Women’s Animal Center, America’s First Animal Shelter.
Concerned by the cruel manner in which strays on Philadelphia streets were captured and killed, they successfully petitioned the city council to take over the municipal pound as their initial order of business, repurposing it as the first facility in the U.S. for sheltering and rehoming animals.
Women’s Animal Center also pioneered the nation’s first humane education programs; first free veterinary clinic; and first anti-vivisection society.
Although living during an era that saw women as second-class citizens with minimal rights, the founders of Women’s Animal Center, led by the courageous and formidable Caroline Earle White, used what little voice they had to speak on behalf of the voiceless.
The power of their message continues to be told today through the daily, lifesaving work of more than 3,500 animal shelters currently in operation across the country. The extent of their influence is written on the heart of American culture itself, reflected in an estimated 85 million American households now shared with pets.
Where once cats and dogs roamed the streets destined for a cruel fate in pounds or at the hands of abusers, America is today one of the most impassioned nations of pet lovers on the planet, where over 3 million cats and dogs were adopted from shelters in 2021 alone.
Women’s Animal Center continues to be governed by an all-women board of directors and executive leader.
The organization will mark its 154th anniversary on April 14, and remains dedicated to its lifesaving work.
In addition to animal sheltering and pet adoptions, Women’s Animal Center provides a variety of vital services to the Greater Philadelphia region, including dog training, physical rehabilitation, behavioral and veterinary resources, youth programming and humane education.
As part of its mission, Women’s Animal Center’s Veterinary Hospital provides affordable, high-quality veterinary care to families in need, thus keeping more animals in their homes and out of shelters. The hospital is among just 12 percent nationwide to be accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association.
Contributions to the nonprofit organization from donors and a portion of proceeds raised through veterinary service fees support safe shelter, nutritious meals, medical and compassionate care for the surrendered and stray animals waiting for a second chance with a forever family.
Women’s Animal Center is located at 3839 Richlieu Road, Bensalem. Visit womensanimalcenter.org or call 215-750-3100 for more information.