American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

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American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
FormationApril 10, 1866[1]
Legal statusFoundation
PurposeHumane care for animals
HeadquartersNew York City
Coordinates40°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 animal cruelty. Based in New York City since its inception in 1866,[4] 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. 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.[5] After getting signatures for his "Declaration of the Rights of Animals," Bergh was given an official charter to incorporate the ASPCA on April 10, 1866.[6] On April 19, 1866, the first anti-cruelty law was passed In NY since the founding of ASPCA, and the organization was granted the right to enforce anti-cruelty laws. In 1867, ASPCA operated its first ambulance for injured horses and began advocating for more humane treatment of animals such as horses, live pigeons, cats and, dogs. Early goals of ASPCA focused on efforts for horses and livestock, since at the time they were used for a number of activities.[7]

In 1918, ASPCA veterinarians developed the use of anesthesia and as a result were able to work on a horse with a broken kneecap. In 1954, ASPCA hospitals added pathology and radiography laboratories and programs. In 1961, ASPCA veterinarians performed their first open-heart surgery on a dog.[8]

From 1894 to 1994, the ASPCA operated the municipal animal shelter system in New York City which euthanized unadopted animals. Starting in 1977, the ASPCA entered into a contract with the New York City Department of Health to receive municipal funding to operate the shelter system. The contract rendered the ASPCA increasingly reliant on government income rather than private donations, and subject to the effects of annual city budget appropriations. In 1993, the ASPCA decided not to renew its contract for operating the shelter system.[9][10] Operation of the shelter system was transferred to Center for Animal Care and Control, later renamed Animal Care Centers of NYC, in 1995.[11]

In 1996, the ASPCA acquired the Animal Poison Control Center from the University of Illinois.[12] In 2013, the ASPCA made a $25 million commitment to assist at-risk animals and pet owners in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, including a fully subsidized spay/neuter facility in South Los Angeles operated by the ASPCA and a campaign to encourage the fostering of local vulnerable kittens.[13]

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.[14]

In 2014, the ASPCA opened the Gloria Gurney Canine Annex for Recovery & Enrichment (CARE) in NYC to house dogs brought by the NYPD to the ASPCA in connection with animal cruelty investigations.[15] In 2014, the ASPCA also opened the ASPCA Kitten Nursery in NYC to care for neonate and very young homeless kittens until they are appropriate for adoption.[16]

In 2015, the ASPCA acquired the Asheville, NC-based Humane Alliance, now called the ASPCA Spay/Neuter Alliance.[17]

In 2018, the ASPCA established the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center. Located in Weaverville, North Carolina, the Center provides behavioral rehabilitation to canine victims of cruelty and neglect. The Center’s Learning Lab also disseminates rehabilitative aid and training to shelters around the country.[18][19][20]

In 2019, the ASPCA opened the ASPCA Community Veterinary Center in Liberty City, Miami, FL to provide subsidized veterinary services for an undeserved community.[21] Also in 2019, the ASPCA also took over responsibility for The Right Horse Initiative as an official program of the ASPCA.[22]

In 2020, the ASPCA opened the ASPCA Community Veterinary Center in the Bronx, New York.[23]

In 2020, the ASPCA launched a series of programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on pets, owners, and communities including free pet food for dogs, cats, and horses in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, and Asheville, grants to animal welfare organizations, emergency pet boarding services, a New York City COVID-19 Pet Hotline, and expanded stationary and mobile veterinary care.[24][25]

In 2021, the ASPCA opened the ASPCA Community Veterinary Center supported by the Alex and Elisabeth Lewyt Charitable Trust, in NYC.[26]

ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement Division patch


In 2012, the ASPCA agreed to pay Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus $9.3 million 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.[27] Edwin J. Sayres stepped down as CEO in 2012, and in 2013 longtime ASPCA staff member Matthew Bershadker was named president and CEO.[28]

Legislation and litigation[edit]

The ASPCA’s Government Relations, Legal Advocacy and Investigations departments work with state and federal lawmakers and engage in legislative and litigation efforts to secure stronger legal protections for animals.[29]

Some of the animal welfare issues the departments work on include ending puppy mills and breed-specific legislation.[30][31][32]

In 2019, the ASPCA sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture for access to animal breeder inspection records.[33]

National cruelty and field response.[edit]

Vehicle for pet adoption, in Brooklyn, New York

At the invitation of local agencies, the ASPCA deploys to sites of large-scale animal abuse, animal neglect, natural disasters, or man-made disasters in which animals are at risk. Teams, including National Field Response, Legal Advocacy and Investigations, Forensic Sciences, the Cruelty Recovery Center, Relocation and the Behavioral Sciences team, engage in animal rescue efforts. They provide behavioral and medical treatment for the animals and support the prosecution of criminal cases with forensic science, evidence collection and analysis, land egal and expert testimony support.[34]

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 a 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.[35]

In 2016, ASPCA field deployment teams participated in a large animal cruelty rescue operation, rescuing nearly 700 animals from an unlicensed facility in North Carolina.[34]

Other large-scale ASPCA rescues included providing emergency sheltering and assistance for approximately 1,300 animals displaced during the Joplin tornado in 2011, and assisting with the care of 367 dogs in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia in 2013 ,in what is believed to be the second-largest dogfighting raid in U.S. history.[36][37]

In September 2013, after many years of providing humane law enforcement services in NYC, the ASPCA and the New York City Police Department announced a collaboration to provide enhanced protection to New York City’s animals.[38] In this partnership, the NYPD responds to all animal cruelty complaints throughout New York City, while the ASPCA provides medical and behavioral care for animal cruelty victims and provides legal and forensic assistance in the prosecution of cases.[39][40] The ASPCA Community Engagement team also works closely with NYthe PD to connect pets in need to services such as medical care, grooming and pet supplies.[41][42]

In 2020, the ASPCA also opened the ASPCA Veterinary Forensic Science Center in Gainesville, Florida, to assist law enforcement with animal cruelty investigations and prosecutions.[43]

Welfare of farm animals and horses[edit]

The ASPCA’s Farm Animal Welfare Program features a “Shop With Your Heart” campaign that guides consumers on making animal welfare-conscious food buying decisions including seeking out meat, egg, and dairy products certified by a e of three credible animal welfare certifications, including Global Animal Partnership (GAP), and exploring more plant-based food options.[44][45]

The ASPCA’s Right Horse Initiative is focused on increasing the number of successful horse adoptions in the U.S. and improving the number of positive outcomes for horses in transition as they move from one home, career, or owner to the next.[46]

Animal relocation[edit]

The ASPCA Animal Relocation Program transports animals from source shelters in locations with high homeless pet overpopulation to destination shelters[47], where there is a higher demand for adoptable animals.[48][49]

Presidents and chairpersons[edit]

ASPCA President (or equivalent)[50]
Henry Bergh 1866–1888
N. P. Hosack 1868–1877
Thomas W. Hartfield 1873–1882
Charles H. Hankinson 1882–1907
William K. Horton 1907–1929
William E. Bevan 1929–1937
Eugene Berlinghoff 1935–1953
Warren W. McSpadden 1953–1958
Arthur L. Amundsen 1958–1961
William Mapel 1960–1972
Encil E. Rains 1972–1977
Duncan Wright 1977–1978
John F. Kullberg, Ed.D. 1978–1991
Roger A. Caras 1991–1998
Larry M. Hawk, D.V.M. 1999–2003
Edwin J. Sayres 2003– May 31, 2013
Matthew E. Bershadker June 1, 2013 –
ASPCA Chairperson (or equivalent)
Henry Bergh 1866–1888
Henry Bergh Jr. 1888–1889
John P. Haines 1889–1906
Alfred Wagstaff 1906–1921
Frank K. Sturgis 1921–1931
George M. Woolsey 1931–1937
Alexander S. Webb 1937–1947
John D. Beals Jr. 1947–1952
Hugh E. Paine 1952–1955
William A. Rockefeller 1955–1963
James H. Jenkins 1963–1969
John F. Thompson Jr. 1969–1971
Charles S. Haines 1971–1973
Alastair B. Martin 1973–1976
Louis F. Bishop III 1976–1979
Marvin Schiller 1979–1981
George W. Gowen 1981–1983
Thomas N. McCarter III 1983–1995
James F. Stebbins 1995–1997
Steven M. Elkman 1997–2003
Hoyle C. Jones 2003–2009[51]
Marsha P. Perelman 2009-2011[52]
Mary Jo White 2011-2012[53]
Tim Wray 2012-2016[54]
Fred Tanne 2016-2020[55]
Sally Spooner 2020-[56]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "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. ^ a b Eschner, Kat. "The ASPCA's Founder Was Known as "The Great Meddler"". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2021-03-11.
  5. ^ "ASPCA is founded". HISTORY. Retrieved 2021-04-05.
  6. ^ "The Development of the Anti-Cruelty Laws During the 1800's | Animal Legal & Historical Center". Retrieved 2021-04-06.
  7. ^ Priest, Claire (2019). "Enforcing Sympathy: Animal Cruelty Doctrine after the Civil War". Law & Social Inquiry. 44 (1): 136–169. doi:10.1017/lsi.2018.11. ISSN 0897-6546.
  8. ^ "ASPCA". ASPCA.
  9. ^ Hicks, Jonathan P. (March 26, 1993). "A.S.P.C.A. Plans to Stop Killing Strays". The New York Times.
  10. ^ 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. ^ "Audit Report on the Shelter Conditions and Adoption Efforts of theCenter for Animal Care and Control" (PDF). 2002-06-06.
  12. ^ "Success, 150 Years In The Making The History of ASPCA' S Charitable Efforts". Pets Magazine in New York | Dogs Magazine | Cats Magazine. 2011-10-01. Retrieved 2021-04-15.
  13. ^ "Agency starts big pet-rescue project in California". 2014-05-06. Retrieved 2021-05-19.
  14. ^ "Who Speaks for the Carriage Horses?". New York Times. 2014-01-17.
  15. ^ Charlesworth, Michelle (2015-10-05). "Rehab facility for abused dogs opens at Upper East Side ASPCA". ABC7 New York. Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  16. ^ Kis, Eva. "PHOTOS: Inside the ASPCA's Kitten Nursery, the cutest place in NYC - Metro US". Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  17. ^ "'We do one thing, and one thing only' ASPCA tackles pet overpopulation with training program devoted to high-quality, high-volume spay-neuter". 2019-04-10.
  18. ^ Brown, Elizabeth Anne. "Puppy mill survivors are paralyzed with fear. ASPCA learned to save almost all of them". The Asheville Citizen Times. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  19. ^ "1 Of A Kind Shelter Helps Traumatized Dogs Learn To Trust Humans Again". Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  20. ^ Ulmerdate=2018-05-10, Ken. "Canine Crusaders: ASPCA Rehab Center Opens In Weaverville". The 828. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  21. ^ "Residents in Liberty City area can go to this new center for free veterinary care". Mieami Herald. 2019-10-28.
  22. ^ "My Right Horse Adoptable Horse of the Week – Shady". Horse Illustrated. 2021-03-29. Retrieved 2021-04-12.
  23. ^ "ASPCA announces $45 million commitment to help animal cruelty victims and low-income pet owners". Chicago Tribune. 2019-07-11.
  24. ^ "Americans are starting to give up their pets because of COVID-19 hardships". Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  25. ^ "Coronavirus spurs surge in North Bay pet adoptions". The North Bay Business Journal. 2020-11-09. Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  26. ^ "Around Brooklyn: Applications to community boards up". Brooklyn Eagle. 2021-04-09. Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  27. ^ "Animal rights group settles lawsuit with Ringling". Denver Post. Archived from the original on December 30, 2012. Retrieved 2017-01-08.
  28. ^ "Angst at the ASPCA". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-06-28.
  29. ^ "Around Brooklyn: Applications to community boards up". Brooklyn Eagle. 2021-04-09. Retrieved 2021-05-22.
  30. ^ "Survey shows the risk of buying a puppy from a pet store". WXMI. 2019-12-13. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  31. ^ "New York State lawmakers seek to stop puppy mill pipeline". NEWS10 ABC. 2020-07-23. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  32. ^ "Rethinking the Regulation of Dog Breeds | The Regulatory Review". 2020-04-23. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  33. ^ "Adopt or Shop: This Dog Startup Says You Don't Have to Choose". 2019-05-03. Archived from the original on 2021-05-23. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  34. ^ a b "Overview of ASPCA Field Investigations & Response and the Nuts and Bolts of Animals in Distress-Disasters". Maddie's Fund. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  35. ^ "Man Charged With Killing Wife's Dog". 2008-11-05. Archived from the original on 2011-06-10. Retrieved 2011-11-08.
  36. ^ "Pets rescued, treated after deadly tornado". American Veterinary Medical Association. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  37. ^ "ASPCA: 367 dogs rescued from 'horrendous conditions' in Alabama, Georgia (photos, video)". al. 2013-08-26. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  38. ^ Tracy, Thomas. "NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton awarded for fighting animal abuse in the city". Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  39. ^ Toussaint, Kristin. "ASPCA and NYPD continue their mission to protect the animals of NYC - Metro US". Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  40. ^ "NYPD Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad gets its own set of wheels". Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  41. ^ Colangelo, Lisa L. "Intervention program helps pull animal hoarders from a downward spiral". Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  42. ^ "Pups in Jamaica to Brave Cold in Free Doghouses, ASPCA Says". DNAinfo New York. Archived from the original on 2021-05-23. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  43. ^ Chernicoff, Michelle (2021-03-30). "ASPCA partnership brings new courses to FIU". CASE NEWS. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  44. ^ Chaker, Anne Marie (2018-07-31). "Have You Met This Cow? She's Delicious". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  45. ^ "Cafe Spice Joins ASPCA's Shop With Your Heart Program". Perishable News. 2019-04-08. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  46. ^ "My Right Horse Adoptable Horse of the Week - Shady". Horse Illustrated. 2021-03-29. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  47. ^ "ASPCA Transports Shelter Animals Displaced by Hurricane Harvey from Houston SPCA to ASPCA Adoption Center". Pets Magazine in New York | Dogs Magazine | Cats Magazine. 2017-09-04. Retrieved 2022-09-28.
  48. ^ "Animals moved from Texas shelters during severe weather". Fort Worth Business Press. 2021-02-23. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  49. ^ Swanson, Sady. "As demand for rescue pets rises, Larimer Humane Society works with ASPCA to find animals homes". The Coloradoan. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  50. ^ source: 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 978-0275990213.
  51. ^ "Hoyle C. Jones, Chairman and CEO of the ASPCA stands with Linda..." Getty Images. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  52. ^ "Philadelphian Marsha Perelman Joins The Humane Society of the United States Board of Directors". The Humane Society of the United States. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  53. ^ "ASPCA Elects Mary Jo White to Chair of the Board". Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  54. ^ "ASPCA Elects Tim F. Wray to Chair of the Board". ASPCA. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  55. ^ "ASPCA Elects Frederick Tanne to Chair of the Board of Leading National Animal Welfare Organization". ASPCA. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  56. ^ "ASPCA Elects Sally Spooner to Chair of the Board of Leading National Animal Welfare Organization". ASPCA. Retrieved 2021-05-23.


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[edit]