The beginnings of the ASPCA
In the United States the ASPCA got its start from Henry
Bergh, born in 1813, who was an aristocrat and a diplomat to
Russia. He had a passion for the rights of animals and spoke
up on their behalf. This was the first time in America that
such action was taken on the behalf of animals.
Bergh brought a charter before the legislature to form the
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
and the Declaration of the Rights of Animals, and he had
many dignitaries sign it. It was passed on April 10, 1866
and nine days later the ASPCA was given jurisdiction to
enforce the newly enacted anti-cruelty law.
At that time the ASPCA consisted of three members who worked
full time to protect animals' rights. Bergh wrote to a
reporter, "Day after day I am in slaughterhouses, or lying
in wait at midnight with a squad of police near some dog
pit. Lifting a fallen horse to his feet, penetrating
buildings where I inspect collars and saddles for raw flesh,
then lecturing in public schools to children, and again to
adult societies. Thus my whole life is spent."
This man almost single handedly put into action the movement
to protect animals in the United States. The ASPCA is also
credited for creating the first horse ambulance in 1867 and
in 1875 the horse rescue sling. He also provided public
drinking fountains for draft horses that pulled the street
cars and carts along the streets. Other animals regularly
drank from these fountains as well. And he advocated using
other means for shooting events aside from shooting live
By the time Bergh passed away in 1888 his message had been
received and it influenced a generation to protect animals
from cruelty. Animal Humane societies popped up all over the
United States, and all of them were guided by the principals
that Bergh taught and upheld.
Today the ASPCA still fights for animals' rights, and more
serious penalties are enacted for cruelty to any animal. The
morals laid down by Bergh have been part of the fiber and
foundation that still leads the ASPCA. Because of Henry
Bergh's hard work, legislation is still constantly being put
through to stop animal cruelty and protect animals.
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