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cruelty, prevention of

cruelty, prevention of

cruelty, prevention of. In the 19th cent. many laws were passed in Great Britain and the United States to protect the helpless, especially children, lunatics, and domestic animals, from willful and malicious acts of cruelty. At first, cruelty to animals was deemed criminal only when severe enough to constitute a public nuisance. But in 1822 the British Parliament passed the Martin Act for animal protection, and two years later Richard Martin formed the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The Cruelty to Animals Acts of 1849 and 1854 firmly established protection for animals. Not until 1884 was the first British law passed to protect children from cruelty. This movement to protect the helpless soon spread throughout Europe and to the United States, where the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was formed (1866) by Henry Bergh in New York City. The American Humane Association, for the protection of animals and children, was organized in 1877. In the United States, as in Great Britain, protection of children came after that of animals, the first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children having been formed in New York City in 1875. In all states, parents guilty of bodily cruelty to, or moral corruption of, their children may now be lawfully punished, and the children may be taken from them to become wards of the state (see child abuse). Societies of both types—for the protection of children and of animals—promote better legislation and enforcement, investigate and report alleged cruelties, establish shelters and sometimes (animal) hospitals, and carry on education against cruelty. While most of these societies are private, philanthropic organizations, some receive public funds.

See R. C. McCrea, The Humane Movement (1910, repr. 1969); L. G. Housden, The Prevention of Cruelty to Children (1955); P. P. Hallie, The Paradox of Cruelty (1969); D. Bakan, Slaughter of the Innocents (1971).

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is a non-profit organization which, as the name says, is dedicated to preventing cruelty towards animals. It was founded by Henry Bergh on April 10, 1866, in New York City. It is the oldest welfare organization in the United States. Their mission is "to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States."

Aside from rescuing animals, the ASPCA is also involved with disaster preparedness and management. For instance, prior to hurricane Gustave 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.

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.

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