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History of Lort Smith

The Lort Smith Animal Hospital has a proud history. It grew out of the Animal Welfare League, established in 1927 with the main purpose of raising money to help disadvantaged animals and their owners.

The depression years brought increasing distress to the population of Australia, and at a time when assistance was increasingly looked for by the poor to help in treatment of pets the only body which was set up to provide such a service to needy animal owners was forced to close its doors in 1929. This was the veterinary clinic for poor people which had been running at The University of Melbourne to give training to the vets of the Veterinary School. This had failed to attract sufficient students to make it viable. One of the vets attached to the clinic, Dr Bordeaux, had the foresight to suggest to the recently founded Animal Welfare League that they should seek assistance from the University of Melbourne to take over the running of the clinic and thus maintain this vital service.  

Believing that there was sufficient demand for a public animal hospital, a founder of the Animal Welfare League, Mrs Louisa Lort Smith, secured land in Villiers Street, North Melbourne. She then convinced her friend Lady Lyle, a passionate animal lover herself, to donate £5,000 to the project. The Lort Smith-Lyle Hospital for Sick and Injured Animals then opened in April 1936.

The League's vision was that the hospital would provide a place where people with limited financial resources could obtain veterinary treatment for their animals. While this altruistic goal may have been to reduce unnecessary suffering by ill and injured animals, the hospital has also helped to reduce the anxiety, pain and grief felt by all the thousands of people who have had to accompany their animals to the hospital. Thus, throughout its long history the hospital has been committed to serving both animal welfare and social welfare - a unique vision.

By 1997, despite various extensions and refurbishments, it was clear that a new building was required to provide for the increasing demand on the Hospital’s veterinary services. Following a successful major fundraising appeal, a new state-of-the-art hospital opened its doors in December 2000.

Today, Mrs Louisa Lort Smith’s legacy is as strong as ever. Since the Hospital first opened its doors in 1936 we have cared for more than one million animals and rehomed around 200,000 pets.  

We are now the largest animal hospital in Australia.

The full history of Lort Smith has been documented in a book called The Kindness of Strangers. A history of the Lort Smith Animal Hospital", by Felicity Jack.  

Although Mrs Lort Smith was soft-hearted when it came to animals, she was a hard-headed business manager and fearless advocate, being associated with almost every animal welfare deputation to successive Victorian governments.

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