Founded in 1866, the ASPCA was the first humane organization in the Western Hemisphere.
Our mission, as stated by founder Henry Bergh, is “to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.”
The ASPCA works to rescue animals from abuse, pass humane laws, and share resources with shelters nationwide. (About Us, 2012)
The "Voice" Of The Animals
The ASPCA utilizes a staff of both paid and volunteer workers working around the clock providing treatment to animals in need, and working with law enforcement to punish those who lack the means or capabilities to provide a safe and sound environment for their animals.
They are said to be the "voice" of the abused and mistreated animals when they can't speak for themselves. They work to rehabilitate, relocate, and re-associate them into new healthy environments.
The ASPCA exhibits not only ethical but social behavior in the respect that they are willing to help rescue animals who may end up dying in ways that many would consider cruel deaths if they were human beings.
Henry Bergh, born 1813, was the son of a prominent ship builder who would later on become the founder of the ASPCA.
In 1863, Henry was appointed a diplomatic position by the United States embassy in Russia.
During his stay at his post he witnessed a man beating his fallen emaciated horse; Henry intervened to protect the animal from its owner which set the foundation for animal rights and protection from cruelty in the United States.
After serving at his outpost, Henry, on route to America decided to visit the Earl of Harrowby, the President of England's Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
He would seek advice and information from the Earl and take this knowledge back to America with him to start a new movement. Henry would eventually be known as "The Great Meddler" for his stance on protecting man's mute servants.
Welcome The Great Meddler
Back in New York, Bergh pleaded on behalf of "these mute servants of mankind" at a meeting that took place February 8th 1886.
According to the next day's edition of The Sun, Bergh impressed attendees with his indignant recollection of a family watching a bullfight in Spain who "...seemed to receive their most ecstatic throb from the maddening stab of the horned animal."
Bergh then detailed practices in America, including cockfighting and the horrors of slaughterhouses. A basic tenet of Bergh's philosophy, protecting animals was an issue that crossed party lines and class boundaries.
To his audience, which included some of Manhattan's most powerful business and government leaders, he stressed, "This is a matter purely of conscience; it has no perplexing side issues. It is a moral question in all its aspects." ("History", 2012)
Henry at the time took a stance that was opposite of common day thinking during his period of time. His decision and passion to protect animals was totally outside of the normal every day realm, but his drive to create a better life for them almost made him an outcast.
At that time, if Henry had decided to remain silent or turned a blind eye to abused animals and decided not to get involved, animal protection and cruelty prevention might have fallen to the wayside.
The Sidelines Aren't For Everyone
Coming from a well established family Henry could have stood on the sidelines, watched that man bludgeon his horse till it was battered and bruised.
However, he felt this behavior to be so unacceptable that he decided to make changes for the betterment of the animal kingdom.
Henry is just one of many people who decided to go against the common flow of his times and doing so he created what we know today as the ASPCA or the America Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
What a person can take away by how the ASPCA was founded and even why it was founded, is that one person can make a difference in the lives others, man or animal.
Pretending It Doesn't Exist Doesn't Help Anything
Sadly, animal cruelty gets overlooked a little more than it should.
Strays are looked at as nuisances and filthy creatures of burden yet their circumstances probably aren't of their own choosing.
There are too many people who turn a blind eye to an emaciated dog starving and chained to a post or one without shelter in the cold of winter time, or the dog panting in the hot sun with no water or shade.
How about the people that leave their animals in the car on a hot summer day with the windows rolled up while they go inside to shop?
Many atrocities that were once common day practice are now punishable by law because of the actions Henry took so long ago.
News broadcasts report of beaten horses that are on their death beds, cats that have been burnt and shot at with any type of projectile or kicked and tossed, dogs with their snouts blown off or just so mistreated they have to be destroyed.
This treatment may have been common day behavior back in the early ages but now it's a criminal activity that faces possible jail time and monetary punishment.
Instead of being hidden behind the scenes these people are now being publicly displayed for their improper care and mistreatment of animals.
Henry may have had no idea of the movement he would set in place and the power its gained since its inception but what it stands for, represents, and protects today would probably make him very proud of what it has become.