AWLA resources to keep your companion

AWLA resources to keep your companion
Pet shelters offer adopters assistance with food, supplies, veterinary care and training. (Photo/Irina Zhur)

By Erin Shackelford

Northern Virginia has consistently been one of the more expensive areas in the United States. Thirty-seven percent of all households, including nearly half of all senior-aged adults, in Alexandria fall below the Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed threshold.

Those who fall within this threshold struggle to make ends meet for basic necessities, which do not include basic or emergency medical needs of their companion animals. Yet, companion animals play a vital role in the health and well-being of so many Alexandrians.

A misguided notion

You might have heard someone say, “If you can’t afford an animal, you shouldn’t have one.” Sadly, this is a common, misguided belief held by many people.

With many of our nation’s animal shelters facing overpopulation – and, unfortunately, turning to euthanasia for space – loving and capable homes for animals are needed more now than ever. Instead of preventing someone from enjoying the company of an animal due to ongoing or temporary financial limitations, increasing numbers of animal shelters are growing their pool of adopters by prioritizing programs that provide assistance with pet food and supplies, veterinary care and behavior training. These programs keep and place animals with people who love them and out of overcrowded animal shelters.

Along with reducing strain on animal shelters, these programs are improving health and wellness outcomes for people, letting them experience the love and joy an animal companion can bring.

Supporting pets and people

In Alexandria, animal guardians have a variety of resources to turn to if they need help caring for their animals. The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria offers the following assistance.

Pet Pantry: Sometimes the only thing a pet parent needs is a little help between paychecks. Through the AWLA’s Community Pet Pantry, pet parents can receive dry and wet food, litter and more for mammals. There are no requirements for the program. For senior-aged clients, the AWLA also partners with Senior Services of Alexandria to provide pet food and supplies through the AniMeals program.

Vaccines and microchips: The AWLA’s monthly low-cost vaccination and microchip clinics offer vaccines, microchips and prevention. The AWLA also hosts four Pets & People Wellness events every year that offer free vaccines, microchips, supplies, nail trims and more. The first one of 2024 is scheduled for April 27.

Spay and neuter: Spay and neuter is critical to our community’s and animal’s health, but it can often be cost prohibitive for many families. Qualifying pet parents can receive a low-cost spay and neuter voucher through the AWLA, making the procedure much more attainable and affordable.

Behavior and training: Finding professional help for problematic animal behaviors can be expensive. The AWLA offers a variety of assistance for all pet owners. The animal does not need to have been adopted from the AWLA to receive help from our trained and certified behavior and training team.

To learn more about the above community programs and others offered by the AWLA, visit AlexandriaAni

All of the resources above are provided through the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, a nonprofit organization that not only provides these community programs, but serves as our city’s animal shelter in addition to providing animal control services and youth education programs.

If you’re interested in learning about how you can support these community initiatives, you can email development@

The writer is the marketing and communications specialist with the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria.