In Henry Bergh’s lifetime, dogs turned treadmills or pulled carts. Sporting men put down money on $1,000 championship dogfights. Strays were rounded up from Manhattan streets, thrown into cages and swung into the East River to drown.
What was unusual was for a wealthy, socially prominent man to notice and say, “Enough!”
That man was Henry Bergh, the son and heir of a successful shipyard owner. His leadership led to the founding of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) on April 10, 1866, by the New York State Legislature. Nine days later, an anticruelty law was passed and the ASPCA was given the right to enforce it.