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“No animal should have to suffer pain because its owner is financially unable to provide the medical help it sorely needs.” - Harriet G. Bird, Founder


A Brief History

In 1929 the world lost a great humanitarian, Judge Henry C. Merwin, founder of the Boston Work Horse Relief Association. His death inspired his friends to create the clinic as a living memorial.



Under the leadership of Harriet G. Bird, another great animal humanitarian, Merwin Memorial Free Clinic for Animals. Inc. came into being on Northampton Street in Boston in 1932.  Merwin offered both a resting place and a treatment area for horses and other work animals. Dr. Terrence Burke, of Boston, was its first veterinarian. Mr. Peter Simpson became the clinic Superintendent.


(Above) Original location of the clinic.

As the clinic grew and the demand for its services expanded, the Northampton Street quarters became too small. In 1936 Merwin bought a stately home in Allston at 542 Cambridge Street. First floor rooms became waiting and treatment rooms. A watering trough was put in the side yard and it became a haven for horses, goats, and other animals.

(Below) Current location of the clinic.


Through the years our patient load has changed. Dog and cat cases have increased while horses and goats no longer visit the clinic.  Our patient load has grown from an early 2,500 cases a year to more than 9,300 cases in 2010.  In 2010 alone we saw over 3,100 new cases and telephone inquiries increased to more than 10,000.

One of our largest and most successful programs is our Spay/Neuter Program, initiated in 1989. Merwin Veterinarians, free of charge, will do the preliminary exams and paperwork for animals to be spayed or neutered. The animals are then referred to an animal hospital for outpatient treatment at reduced fees. This program continues today.



(Above) Harriet G. Bird, Founder.

Merwin has also been active in its local communities. We have provided books to local libraries, sponsored art contests for children, provided scholarships at colleges and supported animal programs through colleges, aquariums and museums.

Both the Bird and Simpson families remain deeply involved in Merwin’s operations.