The ASPCA stands for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The organization employs over 300 people in seven offices across the nation to help protect animals against neglect and abuse by providing valuable education for the public, adoption opportunities and humane law enforcement, among other efforts.

History of the ASPCA

The organization was founded in 1866 by Henry Bergh, the son of a wealthy shipbuilder. He lived out his younger years as a man of leisure, travelling around parts of Europe. He attained a position in the court of Czar Alexander II where he began to become interested in preventing poor treatment of animals. On a trip to America, he stopped visited the Earl of Harrowby, who presided over the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals which had been founded in 1840.

Upon reaching the United States, he held a meeting at Clinton Hall in New York City on February 8, 1866, where he recalled some of the horrors of animal abuse he had witnessed abroad and the indignation he felt due to it. He told onlookers about the common practices in the States and across the world of cockfighting and the inhumane conditions in slaughterhouses. His audience contained many leaders in New York's government and business sectors. Those who heard what he had to say were impressed enough to support him in his petitions to the New York State Legislature asking for a charter to start an organization protecting animals and for anti-cruelty laws. He got both, and was allowed authority to enforce the laws as well. Bergh's full time staff of just three commited to doing that. Bergh worked tirelessly, oftentimes through the night staking out perpetrators at dog fights and cock fights. He worked to educate children in schools in the city and spoke often with reporters about his progress.

In 1867, Bergh began running an ambulance for injured horses, and in 1875 he obtained a sling for rescuing trapped horses. He worked tirelessly to provide working horses in the streets with fresh clean water every day, and let the public fountains be accessible to cats and dogs as well as people.

Bergh died in 1888, but by this time he had made such progress in his work that many Americans shared his compassion for animals. Soon societies protecting animals such as his did were founded all over the country and 37 states out of the 38 in the union had adopted anti-cruelty laws like New York had.

In 1894, the ASPCA was given control over the duties of animal control and began creating animal shelters and picking up stray and injured animals. In 1895, cats were written into the anti-cruelty law along with dogs even though they weren't as commonly kept as pets.

In 1912, the ASPCA opened a hospital for animals and veterinarians began performing operations. In 1954 they created radiograph and pathology labs. Also around this time great progress was made in the treatment of distemper and panleukopenia by the creation of new vaccines.

In the 1950s and 1960s, dog and cat life expectancies rose by several years because of the increase in humane pet care and more interest in pet ownership. Due to this, the ASPCA began to focus more and more on adoption efforts as their greatest way of helping animals. During these years, the ASPCA also began recommending the spaying and neutering of dogs and cats because of the explosion in pet populations. Many of these puppies and kittens could not be found homes and so education about preventing this became one of the ASPCA's most important causes. Even today, they still meet with resistance on this point.

Henry Bergh's legacy lives on, and the huge amount of work he did on behalf of animals changed forever the average American's understanding of pet care and a sense of compassion toward animals. Almost 120 years after his death, his society still works constantly towards realizing his vision.

The ASPCA Today

Today, the ASPCA has expanded its programs to include shelter outreach, education for children, adoption opportunities, information about nutrition and pet training, humane law enforcement, and information about lower spay/neuter costs.

They operate the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center which offers resources concerning poison control 24 hours a day. They can be reached by calling: (888) 426-4435.

The ASPCA offers a lot of helpful hints on how to care for many different kinds of pets including some exotic animals. On their website, they emphasize the importance of the basic nutrients that pets need: water, protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. They discuss the addition of taurine into cats' diets since it cannot be produced in their bodies and so has to be obtained through their food. Taurine exists only in animal protein sources and cannot be gotten through vegetable or grain sources. It is important to consider this when choosing a diet for a cat.

In their advice regarding nutrition and diet, they also recommend looking at your pet's activity level when considering what they eat. A dog that keeps mostly to the house should consume less fat than an active working or show dog, which would need more fat in their diet. Dog food companies have realized this and now make various formulas such as "Maintenence" or "High Energy", etc.

The spay/neuter compaign remains a cornerstone in the operations of the modern-day ASPCA. They remind pet owners that pets that are spayed and neutered often live longer, healthier lives because the risks of pyometra in female dogs and cats as well as breast cancer, which is fatal to 50% of dogs and 90% of cats. Also, most of the time spaying and neutering will lead to a well-behaved pet. Male dogs and cats, unaltered, will have a greater tendency to roam in search of a mate and to mark their territory, sometimes indoors as well as out. Female unaltered cats will yowl incessently during their heat cycles and sometimes can urinate outside of their litter boxes attempting to attract mates.

Spaying and neutering does help overpopulation problems; most abandoned kittens and puppies come from unplanned litters by animals that have owners who didn't intend to breed them, but say a strange male dog just "happened" to get into the yard, or my outdoor female cat just "turned up" pregnant one day. All of this is easily prevented by this affordable, short surgery.

I have personally witnessed spaying and neutering when I worked at a veterinary clinic 8 years ago and I can verify how fast a procedure is and the fact that it is very easy on the pet in terms of recovery time and discomfort. The benefits outweigh any risks by far.

Today the ASPCA is also working dilligently towards the establishment of new shelters through its shelter outreach program. Starting a shelter is a huge project with enormous amounts of work attached to it, but the ASPCA generously donates time toward helping ambitious individuals get their shelters running smoothly. They emphasize the importance of getting community support through donations and hiring a staff of hard working people who love animals as well as making contacts in the area and creating an action plan and a mission statement to establish the future of the shelter. By helping other shelters in the country, the ASPCA brings hope to homeless animals in areas that might not have resources to help yet.

For more information about the various programs the ASPCA offers, visit their website at

Reporting Animal Cruelty

The ASPCA has a general email address if you need to report a case of animal abuse or neglect: If you are in New York City, call (212) 876-7700 ext. 4450.

Animal cruelty is illegal in every state in the country; it is vital that every person who witnesses or suspects that an animal is being abused should not ignore it, but report it.


The information from this writeup is from various locations on

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