American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Abbreviation ASPCA
Motto "We are their voice."
Formation April 10, 1866[1]
Legal status Foundation
Purpose Humane care for animals
Headquarters New York City
Coordinates 40°46′48.1188″N 73°56′44.53″W / 40.780033000°N 73.9457028°W / 40.780033000; -73.9457028
Region served
United States
1.2 million+[2]
Official language
President & CEO
Matthew E. Bershadker[3]

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing cruelty to animals. Based in New York City since its inception in 1866, the organization's mission is "to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States."[1]


Squirrel monkey "Miss Baker" poses with the Certificate of Merit for Distinguished Service she was awarded by the ASPCA after her successful return to earth, the associated medal, and the couch used for her flight (to the right). Baker and her traveling companion Able were the first animals to return alive from space.

Following the creation of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in the United Kingdom in 1824 (given Royal status in 1840), Henry Bergh founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on April 10, 1866 in New York City[4] on the belief that animals are entitled to kind and respectful treatment at the hands of humans, and must be protected under the law. It is the oldest animal welfare organization in the United States. Founded in 1866, the ASPCA was the first humane organization in the Western Hemisphere. Buffalo's chapter, founded in 1867, is the second oldest.[5] ASPCA was founded to stop the injustices animals face across the United States. On February 8, 1866, Bergh pleaded on behalf of animals at a meeting at Clinton Hall in New York City. Some of the issues he discussed were cockfighting and the horrors of slaughterhouses. After getting signatures for his "Declaration of the Rights of Animals," Bergh was given an official charter to incorporate ASPCA on April 10, 1866. On April 19, 1866, the first anti-cruelty law was passed since the founding of ASPCA, and the organization was granted the right to enforce anti-cruelty laws. At that time, there were three staff members at the ASPCA. In 1867, ASPCA operated its first ambulance for injured horses and advocated alternatives for inhumane actions toward animals such as horses, live pigeons, cats and dogs. By the time of Bergh's death in 1888, 37 out of the 38 states in the union had enacted anti-cruelty laws that were enforced by the ASPCA. Early goals of ASPCA focused on efforts for horses and livestock, since at the time they were used for a number of activities.

Starting at the turn of the 20th century, small domestic animals, like cats and dogs, became the focus for members of ASPCA. ASPCA wrote its first annual report in 1867 after a man was sentenced to 10 days in prison for beating a cat to death.[6][7]

From 1894 to 1994, the ASPCA operated the municipal animal shelter system in New York City which inevitably euthanized unadopted animals. Starting in 1977, the ASPCA entered into a contract with New York City Department of Health to receive municipal funding to operate the shelter system. This created the effect of being increasingly reliant on government contracting/government income rather than private donations. This resulted in being subject to the effects of yearly city budget appropriations. In 1993, the ASPCA decided that operating the kill shelter system for New York City conflicted with its mission and discouraged private donations. The group then terminated its contract for operating the shelter system.[8][9] The agreement for operation of the Humane Law Enforcement Division remained unchanged by this action. Operation of the shelter system was transferred to Center for Animal Care and Control in 1995.

Medicine for animals under ASPCA

One of the early goals of ASPCA was to improve the health and welfare of animals. The first animal hospitals under ASPCA were created in 1912. Since the creation of these hospitals, ASPCA found a new tactic in improving its cause: the ability to develop various medical procedures and innovations with help from new discoveries in medicine and technology. Some of these procedures and innovations include the following:

Resources for pets and parents

Brooklyn chapter

This initiative is designed to assist individuals' care for their animals in a proper and ethical way. Some services offered to assist individuals are:

24 hour animal poison control line requires $65 payment by credit card

Outcomes for at-risk animals

This program is designed as an initiative to take steps to take care and provide for at-risk animals around the country. Some programs designed to help at-risk animals include:

Other efforts

The ASPCA is the nation’s main humane organization, "providing local and national leadership in three key areas: caring for pet parents and pets, providing positive outcomes for at-risk animals and serving victims of animal cruelty".[10] Aside from rescuing animals, the ASPCA is also involved with disaster preparedness and management. For instance, prior to Hurricane Gustav making landfall in Louisiana on September 1, 2008, the ASPCA checked in more than 800 animals into a shelter located in Shreveport. The ASPCA, along with the American Humane Association, maintained a 24-hour presence at the shelter.

ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement Division patch

The ASPCA works primarily with companion animal issues, such as pet care, equine or horse cruelty issues, and animal cruelty and neglect. Its programs and services include: a national poison control hotline for pet owners and animal health professionals; a shelter outreach program to promote best practices within locally owned shelters, a corporate partner program to promote animal-friendly products and services, and a special anti-cruelty initiative to teach animal welfare education and animal welfare law enforcement practices (known as "humane law enforcement" within the organization) across the United States. In the state of New York, the ASPCA's Humane Law Enforcement division has powers to investigate cruelty and enforce laws. The Humane Law Enforcement division has been featured on the Animal Planet television program, Animal Precinct.

The ASPCA provides relief services for the domestic animal victims of natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, where the National Outreach department collected donations to provide supplies; coordinated volunteer efforts; deployed rescue teams to recover abandoned pets; provided temporary shelter to displaced animals; and reunited pets with their owners.

The ASPCA has also partnered with Hartville Group, Inc to provide pet health insurance under the ASPCA name as ASPCA Pet Insurance.[11]

Cases involving torture, killings and mistreatment of animals are some examples of cases handled by the ASPCA. A common example was displayed in the news in October 2008, when the ASPCA was in charge of an investigation involving the slaughtering of a beagle that lived in the Bronx. Brian McCafferty was charged with torturing and injuring his wife's beagle, Jerry, after an argument with his wife. The ASPCA conducted an necropsy that concluded that Jerry was stabbed twice and shot in the neck with a rifle. McCafferty claims that he was acting in self-defense when the dog attacked him. He was eventually released on bail.[12]

As of March 17, 2012, another case involving the harm of an animal is the slicing of a two-year-old male cat, Velvet by his owner Daniel Lawson. Lawson was found to have inflicted the wound with a metal bar and was arrested by ASPCA specialists. If convicted, he will face up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.[13]

The ASPCA has an Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog program each October where it holds events and programs, and recruits and asks potential pet owners to adopt one of the more than one million animals living in shelters across the country.

At ASPCA Day on April 10 each year, the organizes encourages supporters to wear orange—the official color of the ASPCA—to commemorate the protection of animals. ASPCA members spread their message that day using mobile adoption vans, photo booths for pets, information booths on animal cruelty laws and ways to better care for pets.[14] In 2014 the ASPCA spoke out in support of new New York City mayor Bill de Blasio's campaign to ban horse-drawn carriages in the city.[15]


In 2012 the ASPCA agreed to pay Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus $9.3 million of donations to settle a lawsuit regarding the ASPCA's false allegations of animal cruelty by the circus. Courts found that ASPCA activists had paid the key witness, a former Ringling barn helper, at least $190,000, making him "essentially a paid plaintiff" who lacked credibility.[16] Edwin J. Sayres stepped down as CEO in 2012, and in 2013 longtime ASPCA staff member Matthew Bershadker was named president and CEO.[17]


The ASPCA is active in lobbying for animal welfare legislation, with regional and federal lobbyists covering all 50 states. The ASPCA communicates with federal and state legislators to consider animal-friendly legislation and bills. The ASPCA also drafts animal welfare legislation initiatives and proposals for legislators to consider during their sessions. The ASPCA's "Advocacy Brigade" allows users to write or e-mail their legislators on important animal legislation bills and referendums.

In 2008, the Illinois Senate passed the bill HB 5076. This bill contains various "Good Samaritan" provisions that protect rescuers from being sued if they rescue and provide for an injured animal in disasters or other emergencies. This bill also brings clarification to the Humane Care for Animals Act.[18]

Presidents and chairpersons

Information is from Heritage of Care: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.[19]

ASPCA President (or equivalent)
Henry Bergh1866–1888
N. P. Hosack1868–1877
Thomas W. Hartfield1873–1882
Charles H. Hankinson1882–1907
William K. Horton1907–1929
William E. Bevan1929–1937
Eugene Berlinghoff1935–1953
Warren W. McSpadden1953–1958
Arthur L. Amundsen1958–1961
William Mapel1960–1972
Encil E. Rains1972–1977
Duncan Wright1977–1978
John F. Kullberg, Ed.D.1978–1991
Roger A. Caras1991–1998
Larry M. Hawk, D.V.M.1999–2003
Edwin J. Sayres2003– May 31, 2013
Matthew E. Bershadker June 1, 2013 –
ASPCA Chairperson (or equivalent)
Henry Bergh1866–1888
Henry Bergh Jr.1888–1889
John P. Haines1889–1906
Alfred Wagstaff1906–1921
Frank K. Sturgis1921–1931
George M. Woolsey1931–1937
Alexander S. Webb1937–1947
John D. Beals, Jr.1947–1952
Hugh E. Paine1952–1955
William A. Rockefeller1955–1963
James H. Jenkins1963–1969
John F. Thompson Jr.1969–1971
Charles S. Haines1971–1973
Alastair B. Martin1973–1976
Louis F. Bishop III1976–1979
Marvin Schiller1979–1981
George W. Gowen1981–1983
Thomas N. McCarter III1983–1995
James F. Stebbins1995–1997
Steven M. Elkman1997–2003
Hoyle C. Jones2003–

See also


  1. 1 2 "About the". ASPCA. 1995-01-01. Retrieved 2011-11-08.
  2. "ASPCA Announces President and CEO Ed Sayres' Intention to Step Down" (Press release). ASPCA. 25 July 2012. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  3. "ASPCA Board of Directors Names Matthew Bershadker President and CEO".
  4. About the ASPCA | ASPCA
  5. "SPCA Serving Erie County". Retrieved 2011-11-08.
  6. 1 2 ASPCA | History
  7. at the time of citation, this item was not available online
    Staff (2009). "The ASPCA Has Spent More than 140 Years Protecting Our Nation's Equines" (print). ASPCA Action. New York: ASPCA. 5 (1 (Winter 2009)): ppg 14. ISSN 1554-6624. OCLC 57658359. Archived from the original on 31 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-15.
  8. Hicks, Jonathan P. (March 26, 1993). "A.S.P.C.A. Plans to Stop Killing Strays". The New York Times.
  9. Office Of Oversight and Investigations - New York City Council (June 1997). "Dying for homes: animal care and control in new york city". Archived from the original on 2011-06-30.
  11. Hartville Group, Inc. - Pet Insurance for Cats and Dogs
  12. "Man Charged With Killing Wife's Dog". 2008-11-05. Retrieved 2011-11-08.
  13. ASPCA Blog, 2012.
  14. "Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month". ASPCA. Archived from the original on May 15, 2009.
  15. "Who Speaks for the Carriage Horses?". New York Times. 2014-01-17.
  16. "Animal rights group settles lawsuit with Ringling". Denver Post. Archived from the original on December 29, 2012.
  17. "Angst at the ASPCA". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-06-28.
  19. Lane, Landon M.; Stephen L. Zawistowski Ph.D (2007-12-30). Heritage of Care: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Praeger. pp. 147–148. ISBN 0275990214.


Much of the content of this article is based on information from the official ASPCA website: "ASPCA: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals". 

External links

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