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Alberto Samayoa

POLS 1100
Interest Group Research Paper:
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Prof. Jamie Nelson
December 6, 2018


Founded on April 10, 1866 by Henry Bergh in New York City, the American Society for

the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was established with the belief that all animals

are entitled to kind and respectful treatment and must be protected under the law.

The ASPCA, the first animal welfare charity in the United States is a 501(c)(3) not-for-

profit corporation with more than two million supporters worldwide.

The ASPCA’s mission is “to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to

animals throughout the United States.” According to their website, the ASPCA is a “national

leader in the areas of anti-cruelty, community outreach and animal health services.”

Matthew Bershadker, ASPCA President & CEO, Matthew Bershadker, writes, “We are

their voice. Helping vulnerable animals and keeping pets in safe and loving homes requires a

commitment from all of us—advocates, pet owners, shelters, leaders, and entire communities.

When we work together under a common cause, we’re both saving lives and elevating our

society and its laws to ensure cruelty victims and other at-risk animals receive the protection and

care they deserve.”

The ASPCA has an interesting history. In 1863 in the midst of the U.S. Civil War, Henry

Bergh, an American diplomat and philanthropist, was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln

to represent our nation at the Russian court of Czar Alexander II. While there, Mr. Bergh was

greatly disturbed by seeing acts of animal cruelty and he stopped a carriage driver from beating

his fallen horse. On his way home in 1865, Bergh was influenced by a visit to the Royal Society
for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in London and then prompted to bring a like

organization to America.

Back in New York, Bergh pleaded on behalf of “these mute servants of mankind.”

He argued that protecting animals was an issue that crossed party lines and class

boundaries, “This is a matter purely of conscience; it has no perplexing side issues. It is a

moral question in all its aspects.” In April 1866, New York passed the ASPCA’s charter.

The State Legislature enacted the nation’s first anti-cruelty law in the United States which

allowed the ASPCA to investigate animal cruelty complaints and make arrests.

More than a century of successes has propelled the ASPCA into the consciousness of the

country including these few examples; in 1867, the ASPCA operated the first ambulance for

injured horses and in 1879, Mr. Bergh invented a horse sling which proved to be very helpful

during World War I in Europe, the ASPCA opened the first veterinary clinic for horses in 1912,

used anesthesia in animal surgery, treated animals with cancer with radium and in 1941,

introduced dog obedience training classes to local communities. The ASPCA supported the

Animal Welfare Act of 1966 that regulated the treatment of animals in scientific research. In

2003, the ASPCA supported the Humane Farm Animal Care organization in their efforts to

“establish standards accepted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the International

Organization for Standardization for the humane treatment of farm animals, from birth to

slaughter.” The ASPCA believes all animals that are sent to slaughter must have a quick death

without pain, fear or distress.

The ASCPA focuses on three issues; animal rescue, animal placement and animal

protection. They consider these their mandate or areas of expertise.

1. ANIMAL RESCUE: The ASPCA stands ready to intervene in animal cruelty

situations no matter where they occur. They are involved from the very first investigations all

the way to the adoptions of these animals into loving homes. For the past 15 years the ASPCA
has taken a major role responding to natural disasters. For example, after Hurricanes Katrina and

Rita in 2005, rescue staff and volunteers were deployed to the U.S. Gulf Coast from Eastern

Texas to Central Florida. According to the ASPCA website, “in 2017, 47,000 animals were

rescued and there were 30 deployments in response to natural disasters to rescue animal victims

of neglect and abuse.”

2. ANIMAL PLACEMENT: Approximately 6.5 million domesticated animals enter

shelters nationwide every year divided almost equally between dogs and cats. The majority of

shelter animals are comprised of three categories. First, strays who are found on the streets and

brought into the shelter by area residents and municipal animal control departments. Second,

traumatized animals rescued from hoarders and puppy mills, etc. Third, surrendered animals

whose owners can’t care for them any more due to such issues as affordability or when the

owner moves, becomes sick or dies. With so many animals to care for, the ASPCA does its best.

50% of those animals are adopted or returned to their former owners. 1.5 million animals are


As more cities and citizens became concerned with pet over-population, in 1973, the

ASPCA implemented a program of spaying/neutering all adopted animals including 89,768

operations performed in 2017 alone.

3. ANIMAL PROTECTION: From the very earliest days of the organization, the

ASPCA has believed that all animals should be protected, not only by the good will of human

companions but also protected by laws such as those stopping dog fighting gambling events,

puppy mills and other cruel situations where animals are abused.

Opponents of the ASPCA are people who are not necessarily against their mission, but

they are against the way their mission is being executed. There have been accusations that the

ASPCA is not upholding their standards, that they are “killing animals” instead of spending

money to rehabilitate them. Also, there are complaints that the ASPCA’s objective of animal
welfare has shifted closer to the radical ideologies of People for the Ethical Treatment of

Animals (PETA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) of animal “liberation.”

The ASPCA is not limited to one specific political party nor has it claimed to be a

supporter of a particular party. However, the group does tend to financially support candidates

mainly on the left because of the Democratic Party’s push towards passing laws that are more

favorable towards animal welfare. They have supported major candidates like Barack Obama,

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for the presidential elections during the last decade.

A huge focus of the ASPCA funding since 2007 has been the award-winning, two-minute

infomercial featuring Canadian singer, Sarah McLachlan, as she sings her original composition,

“Angel.” Her voice and the poignant lyrics tug at our heartstring while images of abused animals

that need to be rescued make you sob so profusely that you flood your house with tears.

Another way of fund-raising and increasing consumer awareness are the ASPCA

Strategic Cause Partnerships. These organizations/businesses help the ASPCA plan and

implement programs to do specific fundraising within their customer base.

At the current time, there are 9 such groups; Subaru (since 2008, Subaru has donated

almost $20,000,000 and held 1,200 events where more than 40,000 animals have been adopted),

Animal Planet (documentary TV program resulting in 3,700 adoptions), Alex & Ani (jewelry

company that designed the “Prints of Love” – a paw-shaped charm for sale to benefit the

ASCPA), Amazon (.5% of the purchase price for qualified items when consumers shop on

AmazonSmile), Tito’s Handmade Vodka (Austin, TX based “vodka for dog people”), The Right

Horse Initiative (equine welfare advocacy), Lil Bub’s Big Fund (distributed to organizations

caring for special needs pets while finding them a home), Lokai (black or white metallic

bracelets) and Checks in the Mail (encouraging customers to incorporate ASPCA’s logo and

pictures of rescued animals on their checks).

For the year of 2017, the ASPCA’s revenue from donations, grants, sponsorships and

monthly memberships came to a grand total of $236,472,063.

Their advertising strategy is clever because they advertise nationally but in actuality,

there is only have one ASPCA shelter that is in New York City. The ASPCA is not a parent

organization to any of the other local SPCA shelters. (Notice the similarity in the abbreviations

of the different organizations.) According to their detractors, the public is misled into donating to

the shelter in New York City when they were intending to donate to their local shelters.

In closing, this interest group does not appeal to one specific demographic. Most people

have warm, friendly feelings towards animals in general. The ASPCA appeals to anyone who is

an animal lover or who believes in helping vulnerable animals or keeping pets in a safe and

loving home and are grateful for the work that the ASPCA provides. In turn, the ASPCA relies

on the compassion of adults who can afford to adopt, donate and/or volunteer to provide animals

with medical care and protection from abuse.

Works Cited

ASPCA “History of the ASCPCA” American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Accessed 7 December 2018.

ASPCA “Animal Protection” American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Accessed on 7 December 2018

ASPCA “We Are Their Voice” American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Accessed on 7 December 2018

ASPCA “Saving Lives” American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Accessed on 7 December 2018

ASPCA “Increase Adoption” American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Accessed on December 2018

ASPCA “Keeping Them Safe” American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Accessed on 7 December 2018

ASPCA “Our Partners” American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Accessed on 7 December 2018

ASPCA “Ways to Give” American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Accessed on 7 December 2018

ASPCA “Featured Campaigns” American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Accessed on 7 December 2018

Activist Facts “American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)” Activist
cruelty-to-animals-aspca/ Accessed 7 December 2018

PETA Kills Animals “Why PETA kills” PETA Kills Animals Accessed on 7 December

ASPCA “This November 6, Make Your Vote Count for Animals!” American Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
count-animals Accessed on 7 December 2018

Open Secrets “Among Federal Candidates, 2018 Cycle” Center for Responsive Politics Accessed on 7
December 2018 Editors “ASPCA is Founded” A&E Television

Networks Accessed on 6, December 2018