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For the Love of Animals and Children

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or the ASPCA was founded on April 10, 1866, in New York City by philanthropist and diplomat Henry Bergh.

Bergh was appointed by the 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln to a diplomatic post at the Russian court of Czar Alexander II. He was upset seeing that peasant drivers beat their workhorses. On his return trip to the U.S., he stopped to visit the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1865 in London, England. This made him particularly determined to form the ASPCA in the U.S.

Bergh made a speech to encourage people to help animals especially since they could not help themselves. A number of dignitaries signed his Declaration of the Rights of Animals. He got the New York State legislature to pass the charter to incorporate the ASPCA. Nine days later the first effective anti-cruelty law in the U.S. was passed. Bergh went on to inspect slaughterhouses, worked with the police to shut down dog and rat fighting pits and lectured at schools and adult societies.

The ASPCA established and operated the nation’s first ambulance for horses in 1867. This organization became the model for over 23 other humane organizations in the U.S. and Canada. By the time Bergh died in 1888, 37 of the 38 states in the Union had passed anti-cruelty laws.

All of this inspired people to think about protecting abused children who also could not stand-up for themselves. When a nine-year-old girl was found tied to a bed and beaten by her foster parents in 1874, activists founded the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and Bergh was one of the group’s first vice presidents.

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