Community Spotlight: Morris Animal Refuge

Lewis Checchia is the executive director of Morris Animal Refuge. | Provided

Morris Animal Refuge, located at 1242 Lombard Street, has a long history of saving animals in Philadelphia. It was first incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1874, but its founder, Elizabeth Morris, took animals into her own home for nearly 20 years prior to that.

“Elizabeth Morris was a pioneer in animal welfare and founded America’s first animal shelter —Morris Animal Refuge,” says Lewis Checchia, executive director of Morris Animal Refuge.  “Her love for animals and animal care,  especially for those animals who were neglected, abused and abandoned, dates back to her early childhood.”

All these years later, the organization currently provides preventive, protective and adoption services for cats, dogs and small animals in the Philadelphia region.

“As long as Philadelphia has unwanted, homeless, abandoned and neglected animals, we will be there to care for them,” he says.

Checchia is also particularly fond of the work Morris Animal Refuge does with disabled animals.

“My favorite thing that my organization does is that we have had a tremendous success rate rehabilitating special needs animals,” he says. “Whether it’s a deaf dog, a diabetic cat, a kitten missing a leg or an extremely stressed animal coming from an abusive background, we strive to get all of these animals forever homes and are very good at doing it.”

Checchia also adds that volunteers are extremely important to the organization and are needed seven days a week in all sorts of capacities.

“Volunteers [along with the staff] are the lifeblood of our organization, helping out with everything at the shelter, fostering, events, bookkeeping, marketing and general maintenance.  We can always find something for a passionate volunteer to do,” he says.

If you’d like to give back through making a donation, the Morris Animal Refuge will be hosting their 21st annual FurBall on Saturday, March 9.

“It will be at the Simeone Automobile Museum at 7 p.m.,” adds Checchia. “Please come out and support us.”

This year’s theme is Havana Nights and guests will enjoy a mojito bar from Bluebird Distilling, 50s cars, live music and more.

If you’re interested in volunteering at Morris Animal Refuge, visit: and send them a message.

To register for this weekend’s FurBall, visit:

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