April 10, 1866: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is formed. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) was formed in the UK in 1824 and gained Royal status in 1840. It inspired Henry Bergh to found a similar venture in the US. On this date, he began his non-profit society based on the premise that animals are entitled to the kind treatment at the hands of humans. While the right may be implicit, it must be mandated by law. The ASPCA is the oldest animal rights organization in the US. Originating in New York City, as the first such society in the Western Hemisphere, Buffalo soon followed suit and became the second chapter in 1867.
On February 8, 1866, Bergh was before a meeting held at Clinton Hall in New York City and made his plea for humane treatment for animals. He discussed the horrific conditions in slaughterhouses and opposed the practice of cockfighting. He began collecting signatures on his “Declaration on the Rights of Animals” and was officially given his charter to incorporate his society on this day. Nine days later, the first anti-cruelty law was passed with the ASPCA permitted to enforce it and any preexisting laws of the same nature. In 1867, the ASPCA got its first ambulance for injured horses and began their crusade to protect horses as well as live pigeons, cats, and dogs. Bergh died in 1888 at the age of 74 and by that time 37 of the 38 states in the union had enacted anti-cruelty laws which were enforced by the ASPCA.
Henry Bergh was a native New Yorker, son of a shipyard owner. When the shipyard was sold, Bergh took his portion of the profits and with his young wife, traveled extensively in Western Europe. He served as vice-counsel in St. Petersburg, Russia under Lincoln, but resigned his post due to the severe weather. He continued to travel and upon return to the US, vowed to take up the cause of animal rights. At first, he faced ridicule but he continued and became a speaker and lecturer on behalf of those with no voice. His cause gained support and he was able to begin the ASPCA with himself as president. The society was initially funded by donations of property from Bergh himself but future donations came to help fund the cause.
Today, Matthew Bershadker is president of the ASPCA with Hoyle Jones sitting as chairman. They remain headquartered in New York City and have over 1.2 million members. They not only are an anti-cruelty organization, but they also provide information and education on the proper care and treatment of pets. They run adoption centers and shelters and for the animal lovers of the nation, provide a host of volunteer opportunities to care for our four-legged friends. While Americans have 70-80 million pet dogs and 74-96 million pet cats, each year about 2.7 million animals are euthanized. Happily, about the same number of pets are adopted. Helping our companions has become the American way.
Children and dogs are as necessary to the welfare of the country as Wall Street and the railroads. – Harry S. Truman
If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went. – Will Rogers
Cats are connoisseurs of comfort. – James Herriot
You can keep a dog; but it is the cat who keeps people, because cats find humans useful domestic animals. – George Mikes
Also on this day: It’s Not Over ‘Til the Fat Lady Sings – In 1918, Jørn Utzon is born.
ASPCA Formed – In 1866, our animals friends received a voice.
Deadliest Volcano – In 1815, Mount Tambora began to erupt.
Fore – In 1916, the PGA was formed.
Safety First – In 1849, a patent for a safety pin was issued.
* “NYC ASPCA Police Patch” by collection of User:MOOOOOPS. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NYC_ASPCA_Police_Patch.jpg#/media/File:NYC_ASPCA_Police_Patch.jpg