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The ASPCA: Nonprofit Spotlight

The ASPCA: Nonprofit Spotlight

January 11, 2024 by Giving Assistant Editorial Team

Every 60 seconds, an animal in the United States suffers abuse. Unfortunately, the heart-wrenching incidents of animal cruelty reported daily only scratch the surface of the widespread intentional neglect, harm, and exploitation that millions of innocent creatures endure nationwide.

This month, we’re celebrating the impact of an organization that believes all creatures deserve a better life: the ASPCA. As the oldest animal rights organization in the U.S., this nonprofit works tirelessly to ensure animals receive adequate food, water, shelter, and necessary medical care.

Learn more about the ASPCA and how you can support their efforts to rescue and protect the animals suffering from abuse, neglect, and homelessness across America.

What is the ASPCA?

What is ASPCA

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation dedicated to preventing animal cruelty and neglect across America.

Headquartered in New York City, the ASPCA has been a champion for vulnerable pets and animals for over 150 years, establishing many local and national programs that focus on three primary responses: rescue, protection, and placement. The ASPCA also pushes for legislative changes, teaches humane education, and provides resources to animal shelters nationwide.

The ASPCA History

ASPCA Founder

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded in New York City by Henry Bergh, an American who held a diplomatic post at the Russian court of Czar Alexander II. While overseas, two experiences profoundly affected Bergh: preventing a carriage driver from beating his fallen horse and visiting the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in London. Bergh returned to America with a renewed sense of purpose.

After resigning his post, Bergh founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on April 10, 1866; the charitable organization centered on one belief: all animals are entitled to kind and respectful treatment and must be protected under the law.

The ASPCA became the first and only humane society in the Western Hemisphere and was instrumental in the New York State Legislature passing the country’s first real anti-cruelty law.

Animal rescue has always been at the heart of Bergh’s vision for the ASPCA. In 1867, the organization operated the first ambulance for injured horses. He even invented a canvas sling to rescue horses (that would later find its way onto the battlefields of Europe during World War I).

The first ASPCA veterinary facility opened in 1912; and performed ground-breaking medical procedures, like advancing anesthesia usage in animal surgery. ASPCA veterinarians first used radium to treat cancer in animals and did the earliest surgery on a horse with a broken kneecap.

Over the years, the ASPCA greatly expanded its reach and impact. For example, obedience training classes for dogs started in 1941, nationwide spay/neuter programs for adopted animals for pet population control began in 1973, and the ASPCA acquired the distinguished Animal Poison Control Center in 1995. You can also thank the ASPCA for reuniting lost pets with their owners by pioneering the use of microchip animal identification since the early nineties.

Today, the ASPCA boasts more than 2 million supporters across the country; it’s the first animal rights organization of its kind established in North America and is presently one of the largest humane societies in the world.

How the ASPCA Gives Back

ASPCA care

The ASPCA’s primary responses when fighting animal cruelty, neglect, and homelessness are:

1. Animal Rescue

The ASPCA saves lives by removing animals from inhumane conditions and assisting in animal cruelty cases when needed. Staff conduct the initial investigations (like collecting and processing forensic evidence to build cases against animal abusers) and ensure the safe placement of rescued animals into new homes.    

Their work may involve:

  • Field deployments to rescue animals in danger during natural disasters
  • Large-scale raids of puppy mills and dogfighting operations
  • Life-saving nutrition and veterinary care to animal hoarding victims after rescue

During the pandemic, the ASPCA deployed four times in response to natural disasters and rescue animals from abuse and neglect, resulting in 185 animals assisted in 2020.

2. Animal Placement

The ASPCA strives to decrease animal homelessness across the country and keep more animals in loving homes by increasing their chances of adoption. The ASPCA Adoption Center works on finding homes for adoptable pets in NYC and sets the standard for shelters nationwide. In 2020, the ASPCA Adoption Center found homes for 1,546 animals.

Other ways the ASPCA increases animal adoptions are through:

  • The ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH): Victims of animal cruelty receive medical attention and emergency surgeries, giving them a second chance at life.
  • Animal Relocation: The ASPCA transports animals to participating shelters with more kennel space and a higher demand for adoptable pets.
  • The ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center: Extremely fearful and undersocialized dogs may need special training and intensive rehabilitation before adoption.

3. Animal Protection

Since the ASPCA believes that all animals are entitled to protection under the law, they fight for policy changes, new federal laws, and community engagement that keep animals safe.

A few ways the ASPCA protects animals nationwide:

  • Spay & Neuter Programs: ASPCA’s efforts to stop unplanned litters and reduce stray populations help keep more animals off of the streets and from crowding shelters.
  • Legal Advocacy: The ASPCA provides a voice for animals in court cases involving animal cruelty investigations.
  • Equine Welfare: The ASPCA works to protect at-risk, neglected, and abused horses through programs like The Right Horse Initiative, which helps horses transition safely to a new home, owner, or career.

Impact and Future Plans for the ASPCA

ASPCA rescue

Each year, the ASPCA rescues, places, and protects victims of abuse, neglect, and natural disasters to make a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of animals—big and small.

From January 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020, the ASPCA has:

  • Assisted 104,900+ animals
  • Relocated 27,700+ animals
  • Performed 47,000+ spay/neuter surgeries, and
  • Helped 370,590+ animals through the Animal Poison Control Center.

Through ASPCA Strategic Cause Partnerships, the nonprofit teams up with diverse companies, like Subaru, Arm & Hammer, and FedEx, to raise awareness and donations for animal welfare programs. In 2021, the ASPCA surpassed the $10 million mark in AmazonSmile donations!

The ASPCA continues to shape a nation free from cruelty to animals; their future plans include:

  • Permanently banning horse slaughter
  • Getting the Puppy Mill Pipeline Bill passed by the New York State Legislature, and
  • Further reducing the number of at-risk animals in shelters and on the streets nationwide.

How to Support the ASPCA

A few ways you can show support:

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