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City of Alexandria Named a Better City for Pets

January 26, 2022

Claire Mouledoux, [email protected] or 703-652-5367
Rebecca Doser, [email protected] or 703-652-5363

City of Alexandria Named a Better City for Pets

ALEXANDRIA, VA (Jan. 19, 2022) —The City of Alexandria has been certified as a BETTER CITY FOR PETS by Mars Petcare, demonstrating the pet-friendliness of the city to residents and visitors. Alexandria is one of only dozens of cities across the country in achieving this designation, the only community in Virginia to do so.

The BETTER CITIES FOR PETS certification takes into account a variety of factors in its assessment, including clean and hygienic park spaces that allow animals, the number of veterinary and other pet care providers, pet-friendly housing, businesses that allow pets and the presence of a safe and welcoming animal shelter that supports pet and their owners.

“Alexandria is a community dedicated to its animals, and this certification demonstrates what we already knew: That we are a city where pets and their people are welcome as visitors or residents,” said Stella Hanly, Executive Director of the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria (AWLA), the city’s only open-access animal shelter.

A city of 160,000 human residents and an estimated 80,000 pets, Alexandria boasts a variety of unique and pet-friendly amenities. The city hosts 18 dog parks and exercise areas, both fenced and unfenced, to allow pets the greatest variety of off-leash activity in a clean, safe environment. Alexandria has also installed pet waste stations throughout the city to ensure that no matter how owners exercise with their dogs, they can do so in a sanitary fashion.

A wide spectrum of pet-friendly things to do include new businesses and events along with dog-friendly boutiques, restaurant patios, hotels and more. New this year, Old Town Alexandria’s waterfront will host the inaugural ALX Dog Walk event on Apr. 2. The newly open Happy Cat Hotel and Spa and coming-soon indoor dog park and bar Snouts & Stouts join many local businesses including dog-friendly restaurant, bar and dog park BarkhausMount Purrnon Cat Café + Wine Bar; and specialty dog-and-cat boutique The Dog Park. Many Alexandria restaurants such as Cameron Café, Hops N ShineLost Dog CaféLena’s Wood-Fired Pizza + TapSonoma Cellar and Vola’s Dockside Grill have patios where pooches are welcome and special dog menus abound. Dozens of Alexandria boutiques are dog-friendly, including those that are part of the Old Town Boutique District, so you don’t have to leave your pup behind while you browse Alexandria’s independent shopping scene. And south of Old Town, one of the nation’s most famous historic sites, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, welcomes leashed dogs in outdoor areas during regular daytime hours. Explore more pet-friendly things to do on Visit Alexandria’s blog.

Along with this certification, the AWLA was also awarded a Vision Award grant by Mars Petcare to fund activities through 2023 to study and expand the availability of pet-friendly housing across the city.

“This year, the BETTER CITIES FOR PETS grant program focused on keeping people and their pets together, knowing the unprecedented challenges facing families throughout the pandemic,” said Jam Stewart, Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Mars Petcare North America. “Our new research shows that the financial and health stressors affecting many people may force some pet parents to make the difficult decision to surrender their pets. As part of our global ambition to end pet homelessness, it’s our goal to keep as many people together with their pets as possible, which this year’s grant recipients are actively helping to address.”

The AWLA already offers a variety of programs to help keep beloved pets in their homes, such as the AWLA’s Community Pet Pantry, which in 2021 provided more than 50,000 pounds of pet food and supplies to pet owners and animal rescues across the region. Community Wellness Events and Vaccine Clinics offer free or low-cost vaccinations and microchips for pets, as well as working with other community groups to provide human support services like shelf-stable groceries and even vaccinations against COVID-19. Additional services offered include the AWLA Pet Behavior Hotline, grooming assistance and Crisis Care, for pet owners undergoing emergencies. The Mars Petcare grant will give the AWLA the opportunity to work with the community to expand the housing available to pets and the people who love them.

“On behalf of the people and pets in the City of Alexandria, we are grateful to be recognized as a BETTER CITY FOR PETS,” said Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson. “The grant received from Mars Petcare will help the AWLA discover how it can better help all pets and families in our city.”


About Alexandria

Founded in 1749, the City of Alexandria is full-service, independent city in Virginia, with a AAA/aaa credit rating and a national reputation for progressive and responsible government. With a fast-paced business environment, walkable neighborhoods and lifestyle amenities, Alexandria is a world-class destination where businesses and nonprofits choose to be. Alexandria’s ample office space and urban amenities offer room to grow – and value that is unmatched anywhere in the region. Located minutes from the nation’s capital, Alexandria’s old-world charm and cutting-edge innovation are the perfect mix for attracting a diverse community, talented workforce and enthusiastic visitors.

About Visit Alexandria

Visit Alexandria is the nonprofit tourism marketing organization for Alexandria, Virginia. Named a Top 3 Best Small City in the U.S. 2021 by the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards, Alexandria hums with a cosmopolitan feel and a walkable lifestyle—a welcoming weekend escape next to our nation’s capital. Founded in 1749, Old Town Alexandria is the nation’s third oldest locally designated historic district, boasting more than 200 independent restaurants and boutiques alongside intimate historic museums and new happenings at the waterfront. At the heart of it all is bustling King Street, a walkable mile recognized as one of the “Great Streets” of America. Walk in the footsteps of George Washington and America’s Founding Fathers while learning about Black history and African American changemakers that have shaped the history of Alexandria and the U.S. Learn more at

About the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria

The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria is a local 501(c)(3) organization that is dedicated to helping animals not only at the Vola Lawson Animal Shelter (Alexandria’s only open-access animal shelter) but also across the community and throughout the country. Along with adoption services, the AWLA offers programs to reach and assist pet owners, including vaccination and microchip clinics, spay and neuter assistance, behavioral support, humane education, grooming and veterinary aid and more. More information can be found at

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