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April is dubbed Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month. While the subject matter is upsetting and something we do not like to think about, being aware of our surroundings and the issues animals face is crucial to making strides to protect animals.

HISTORY OF PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS MONTH

A black and white photo of horse-drawn carriages in front of a European Cathedral.

In 1863, Henry Bergh, the founder of the ASPCA (which stands for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) was traveling when he witnessed someone beating their horse. He intervened to stop the abuse. This was a huge moment for Bergh, realizing that this act could help inspire change on a grander scale. When he returned home to New York, he was determined to stop this cruelty and abuse towards animals. Three years later, he formed the ASPCA.¹

Dating back to 2006, the ASPCA began the observance of Cruelty Prevention Month with a month-long campaign.² Since then, it has become annually celebrated by not only the ASPCA but others who also care about raising awareness and helping save animal lives.  

WHAT CLASSIFIES AS ANIMAL CRUELTY

A long list of actions and environments would be considered animal cruelty. It’s not always an owner or person physically hurting their pet or other animal. It can be a gradual build-up of someone hoarding animals or that dog that never gets left inside to cool off in the summer or to warm up in the winter. Dog and cock-fighting are two other instances of cruel and illegal activities involving animals. 

As animal lovers, we should always be on the lookout for instances of suffering animals like these and find a way to help. . You may not be able to intervene as promptly as Henry Bergh did in 1863 (nor should you get in any physical altercation) but there are other opportunities to help an animal in need. 

HOW TO REPORT

An animal control truck on duty.

What you can do depends on what state or area you live in. Most areas have a local animal control agency that you can call to report the abuse or neglect. If you’re not sure if you have any in your area or how to get a hold of them, call and report it to 911. After making that report, the responding agency is required to investigate³.

LEGISLATION MOVING TOWARDS A BETTER FUTURE FOR ANIMALS

Since the ASPCA was founded and Cruelty Prevention Month was inaugurated, there have been incredible strides towards curbing this issue. State laws vary across the country when it comes to legal action, including  what is considered criminal, at what level and who can report these issues. The Animal Legal Defense Fund provides a great resource that lists and ranks legislation through every state, annually. In 2020, Maine ranked the best state in the nation for protections for animals and in last place was New Mexico with more weaknesses than strengths. Advocacy for better legislation across the country is still needed, especially in the 15 bottom-tier states.

A black and white cat sitting next to the scales of justice.

HOW TO EDUCATE, HELP AND PROMOTE AWARENESS

Simply spreading the word about Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month is a great start. Educating yourself on the types of abuse and neglect that can occur can help you make informed decisions if you ever find yourself face-to-face suspecting it. Donating to the ASPCA, other non-profits or even a local shelter makes a tangible impact in the lives of animals by contributing to the rescue of animals and helping them stay safe and healthy. Lastly, you can share this article with your friends and family so they too can get the 411 on how to help suffering animals.

Cat and owner looking at laptop together.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU OBSERVE CRUELTY TO ANIMALS?

  1. Contact your local animal control organization or call 911. 
  2. Speak-up but only if you feel comfortable in doing so. 
  3. Document what is happening - the date, time, details of the abuse and take photos if possible.

¹, ² “PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS MONTH - April 2021.” National Today, nationaltoday.com/prevention-of-cruelty-to-animals-month/. 

³ “Report Animal Cruelty.” The Humane Society of the United States, www.humanesociety.org/resources/report-animal-cruelty.