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The History of Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home

An Edinburgh Institution

The above image uses images from the National Library of Scotland’s Map Library at https://maps.nls.uk/index.html: The image combines John Bartholomew’s “Plan of Edinburgh and Leith with Suburbs Constructed for the Post Office Directory” published in 1882, his later survey published in 1901-2, and a current Google Maps image to show how EDCH moved over time.

In 1883, the ‘Home for Lost and Starving Dogs’ was founded in Comely Bank Gardens. Not much is known about the early years of the Home but we do know that its first manager was John H. Kirk, a graduate of the Royal Dick Veterinary School of Edinburgh and veterinary surgeon to the East Lothian Calvary.

The turn of the century saw a new location for the Home on Broughton Street.  Unfortunately, the city began to build new homes on the street in 1937 and these new neighbours started to complain about the noise. The Home then moved to its current site in Seafield in 1957, the former location of the Marine Gardens at Portobello. The official opening of the Seafield site took place on 6 November 1957 and in the following year, officially changed its name to Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home.

Although cats were not included in the organisation’s name until 1958, the earliest records of cats on the site were found in a report from 1926. The first full time ‘Cat Woman’ was employed from 1936-1937, and this title was used for at least a few decades. (last noted in the Home’s 1975 Annual Report) The Cat Woman, now known as Cattery Manager, cared for the cats on site and managed the catteries at the Home.


Police Records of Lost Dogs from the 1880s: This document shows the long history shared by the Home and the local Police.

It is widely known that Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home works closely with the local Police to take in animals found straying throughout Edinburgh and the Lothians. What you may not know, is that the Home has been working with the Police since the 1880s. Dog wardens were not introduced in the city of Edinburgh until 1981 so this partnership alone ensured the safety of animals found throughout the city for more than 100 years.

In 1960, Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home began its partnership with the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. Prior to this arrangement, the Home’s animals were cared for by a private veterinary surgeon.  This partnership, which is still in place today, has enabled the Home to have access to the school’s veterinary specialists and provide the highest quality of medical care for our cats and dogs.

In 1985, Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home was one of the founding members of the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes. (ADCH) Today, ADCH has more than 130 full and associate members and plays a critical role in setting best practices for shelters around the UK and Ireland.

Adorable Animals Through the Ages

Mr and Mrs Charles Dickson 1930 Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home

This is a photo of Miss Julia Dickson with her poodle, Teddy. Julia from Lasswade, passed away in 1980 and left the Home’s largest legacy gift at the time. This gift in her Will allowed us to install much needed ‘isolation kennels’ and improve a number of other buildings on our site.

Princess Antoinette of Monaco

Princess Antionette of Monaco visited the Home during her visit to Scotland in 1981-1982. She rehomed two dogs from Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home and even hired one of the kennel staff to work with her dogs back in Monaco!


This photo features a cat named Monty, who was rehomed from us in 1941. His owners described him as ‘timid but playful’ and that he ‘gave the whole family joy unlimited.’ This story is a lovely reminder of how our cats and dogs have brought happiness to so many people in our community since 1883 and continue to do so today.

Ronnie Corbett

Ronnie Corbett, an avid animal-lover, was invited to open the Home’s new dog boarding kennels in August 1989 (although he spent most of his time on our site cuddling dogs).

For most of the Home’s history, gifts in Wills have kept our doors open. Without the incredible generosity of supporters like you who have put Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home in their Wills, we would not exist today. Even now, one in three of our dogs and cats are cared for thanks to gifts in Wills.

After taking care of your loved ones, please consider putting a gift to Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home in your Will. Use our online form to let us know if you have already left a gift or would like more information about how to leave a gift to the Home in your Will. This will help us plan for the future and serve our community for many years to come.

For more information on leaving a lasting gift to Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home, contact Alanna Brady, Special Gifts Fundraiser, on 0131 669 5331 or alanna@edch.org.uk or visit our Gifts in Wills page.

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