American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing cruelty towards animals. Their mission is "to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States."
Henry Bergh founded ASPCA on April 10, 1866 in New York City. It is the oldest and first animal welfare organization in the United States. ASPCA was founded to stop the injustices animals face across 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 that he discussed at this meeting were cockfighting and the horrors of slaughterhouses. After getting many people to sign his "Declaration of the Rights of Animals," Bergh was able to gain an official charter to incorporate ASPCA on April 10, 1866. On April 19, 1866, the first anti-cruelty law was passed since the founding of ASPCA and ASPCA was granted the right to enforce anti-cruelty laws. At that time, there were only three staff members of the ASPCA. In 1867, ASPCA operated its first ambulance for injured horses and advocated various alternatives for inhumane actions towards animals such as horses, live pigeons, cats and dogs. By the time of Bergh's death in 1888, 37 out of the 38 states in the union enacted anti-cruelty laws that were enforced by the ASPCA. Early goals of ASPCA focused on efforts for horses and livestock since at the time they were used for a number of activities. Starting at the turn of the century, small animals like cats and dogs became more of a focus for members of ASPCA. ASPCA wrote its first annual report in 1867 when a man was sentenced to ten days in prison for beating a cat to death. 
One of the early goals of ASPCA was to improve the health and welfare of animals. The first animal hospitals under ASPCA were created in 1912. Since the creation of these hospitals, ASPCA found a new tactic in improving their cause. ASPCA since have been able to develop various medical procedures and innovations with help from new discoveries in medicine and technology. Some of these procedures and innovations include the following:
Since 1866, ASPCA has been granted legal authority to investigate and make arrests in anti-cruelty cases of animals. In addition to the legal authority granted to ASPCA, there are various programs and initiatives to assist individuals on various issues involving animal rights and anti-cruelty laws.
This initiative is designed to assist individuals care for their animals in a proper and ethical way. Some services offered to assist individuals are:
This program is designed as a initiative to take steps to take care and provide for at-risk animals around the country. Some programs designed to help at-risk animals include:
As a way to uphold current animal cruelty laws around the country, ASPCA has created a campaign that combines various animal protection efforts and activities through technology and innovations created specifically for solving animal crimes. Some efforts include:
Aside from rescuing animals, the ASPCA is also involved with disaster preparedness and management. For instance, prior to hurricane Gustav making landfall in Louisiana, New Orleans, September 1, 2008, the ASPCA checked in more than 800 animals into the Louisiana Mega Shelter in Shreveport. The shelter for evacuees is at capacity, so they are being rerouted to shelters in other states. The shelter for animals still has room available, and they continue to receive evacuees' pets. The ASPCA, along with the American Humane Association, currently has a 24 hour presence at the shelter.
The ASPCA works primarily with companion animal issues, such as pet care, equine or horse cruelty issues, and animal cruelty and neglect. Their programs and services include: a national poison control hotline for pet owners and animal health professionals; a shelter outreach program to promote best practices within locally-owned shelters, a corporate partner program to promote animal-friendly products and services, and a special anti-cruelty initiative to teach animal welfare education and animal welfare law enforcement practices (known as "humane law enforcement" within the organization) across the United States. In the state of New York, the ASPCA's Humane Law Enforcement division has powers to investigate cruelty and enforce laws. The Humane Law Enforcement division has been featured on the television program Animal Precinct.
Additionally, the ASPCA provides relief services for the domestic animal victims of natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, where the National Outreach department collected donations to provide supplies; coordinated volunteer efforts; deployed rescue teams to recover abandoned pets; provided temporary shelter to displaced animals; and reunited pets with their owners.
The ASPCA is very active in lobbying for animal welfare legislation, with regional and federal lobbyists covering all 50 states. The ASPCA communicates with federal and state legislators to consider animal-friendly legislation and bills. The ASPCA also drafts animal welfare legislation initiatives and proposals for legislators to consider during their sessions. The ASPCA's "Advocacy Brigade" allows users to write/e-mail their legislators on important animal legislation bills and referendums.
In 2008, the Illinois Senate passed the bill HB 5076. This bill contains various "Good Samaritan" provisions that protect rescuers from being sued if they rescue and provide for an injured animal in disasters or other emergencies. This bill also brings clarification to the Humane Care for Animals Act.
In July 2007, professional football player Michael Vick was convicted on felony charges resulting from a dog-fighting event called "The Bad News Kennels." Dog-fighting gained nationwide attention as a result. In wake of the dog-fighting charges, ASPCA was there to assist federal authorities on anything they needed throughout the Michael Vick case. Even ASPCA assisted on many factors of the case, the most important role the ASPCA played in the case was leading a team of experts to perform behavior evaluations of the seized dogs.
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 this past year. In October 2008, 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 an autopsy 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 released on 50 thousand dollar bail.
Various celebrities have openly expressed their support for the ASPCA. Some include:
The ASPCA has gained national popularity over past 100 years. Some individuals reference ASPCA in terms of support, news or even through metaphors.More recently, actor Robert Downey Jr. referenced ASPCA when discussing his drug problems to People Magazine. He stated"It's not about placating the bad dog - it's about feeding the good dog. You still have to feed the bad dog, but only enough so that the ASPCA doesn't bring you up on charges."
Many local organizations use the term Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), but they are not related to the ASPCA, which is based in New York and has a national reach. Some local organizations take in animals that are stray, abused, or owner give ups, while others may provide humane law enforcement services. They may be private, or contracted with their local government. The current president of the organization is Ed Sayres. The current vice president is Stephen Musso.