Little Bits of History

ASPCA Formed

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 10, 2013
Henry Bergh

Henry Bergh

April 10, 1866: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is founded. Henry Bergh was born in New York City, the son of a German immigrant shipbuilder. When his father died, he and his brothers sold the business. Henry attended Columbia College for a short time. He liked the social aspect of college life more than the scholastic. He quit school and travelled extensively in Europe. He and his wife enjoyed an affluent lifestyle and the grandeur of the Continent.

While in Seville, the Berghs attended a bullfight and were appalled by the slaughter. Bergh was also entrusted with delivering official dispatches and so mingled with the elite of Europe. He tried to be both poet and playwright and failed miserably with his literary endeavors. While in Russia, Henry witnessed a peasant beating a horse and asked his liveried coachman to tell the peasant to stop. It worked and Henry had a new purpose.

Bergh was not an animal lover, but a lover of justice. In London in 1865, he met the president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. On his return to the States, he began a campaign to provide the same protection in the US. He gave his first speech on the subject at New York’s Clinton Hall on February 8, 1866. He proposed in that speech the moral imperative to protect animals who worked with humans. A law was passed and the ASPCA was formed.

Bergh spent the next 22 years quietly advocating for the rights of animals. Today, the ASPCA has a number of programs. They sponsor pet adoption and offer education concerning proper pet care. They are a non-profit organization with a nationwide membership of more than 1 million. They provide assistance with three key areas: 1) caring for pets, 2) providing positive outcomes for at-risk animals, and 3) helping victims of animal cruelty. The cruel fact remains, half of dogs and 70% of cats in shelters are destroyed because no one adopts them.

“The truth is there aren’t enough homes in the United States for all the puppies and kittens born each year.” – article in Animal Protection

“In order to keep a true perspective of one’s importance, everyone should have a dog that will worship him and a cat that will ignore him.” – Dereke Bruce

“If cats could talk, they wouldn’t.” – Nan Porter

“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” – Agnes Sligh Turnbull

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: The ASPCA had as one of its early goals, improved health care for animals. In 1918, ASPCA veterinarians developed a method of administering anesthesia to animals and one of the first benefits was a horse with a broken kneecap who was able to tolerate a surgical procedure. In 1954, ASPCA hospitals added pathology and radiography (x-ray) laboratory programs. In 1961 they were able to perform the first open heart surgery on a dog. One of their current programs, the Orange Initiative, is trying to end the unnecessary euthanasia of adoptable pets, especially in targeted cities. They also advocate for emergency preparedness plans to have a section for the care of pets in an emergency.

Also on this day: It’s Not Over ‘Til the Fat Lady Sings – In 1918 Jørn Utzon is born.
Deadliest Volcano – In 1815, Mount Tambora began to erupt.
Fore – In 1916, the PGA was formed.

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on April 10, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    “the Berghs attended a bullfight and were appalled by the slaughter” meant that they did not know of the feast after- the food was the main event not the bullfight. If they did know of the feast maybe they were jealous of not being invited-snobbish reactions are to condemn the others,any others in life.

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