10/16/2017
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The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Day

On April 10, 1866, Henry Bergh, an American diplomat and philanthropist, founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Bergh to a diplomatic at the court of Alexander II, the Czar of Russia. During his stay in Russia, he was perplexed and horrified by the cruel treatment of horses and other animals by the Russian people.

He realized that many animals back home in the United States were suffering from the same types of brutality. In 1865, while returning to America, he stopped in London. While there, he visited the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and decided to make cruelty to animals a cause to fight for.

After returning to the New York, he decided that animals should be protected by law so he went to work convincing the state legislature to incorporate the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

To Bergh, cruelty to animals was a moral issue. He focused his energies on passing laws that would protect the rights of animals.

He argued that it was "a matter purely of conscience." Under Bergh's direction, ASPCA was used as a vehicle to seek the arrest and prosecution of anyone caught treating animals in a less than humane way.

Bergh worked hand in hand with police and prosecutors to shut down dog fighting venues, cock fighting operations, to clean up inhumane slaughter houses, and he fought to make animal rights an issue that would resonate throughout American society.

The actions of Bergh and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals laid the groundwork for laws that protected children from abuse. The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was founded in 1874 with Bergh serving as the group’s first vice president.

By the time Bergh died in 1888, nearly every state had passed anti-cruelty laws that protected animals. Organizations in other nations, especially Canada, used Bergh's model to protect and promote humane treatment of animals.

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