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Founded in 1866 by Henry Bergh, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was the first humane society incorporated in the United States. It is said that Bergh, after serving in Russia at the behest of President Abraham Lincoln, was distressed at the cruel way animals, particularly, carriage horses were treated. Bergh created the ASPCA, in New York in the mold of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in England which had been in existence since 1824. As the idea of treating animals humanely developed some traction, Bergh traveled about the United States and persuaded some states to likewise create SPCAs in their respective corporate codes. Hence, every state made its own decision, dictated required parameters and enacted specific and unique legislation. Consequently, every single SPCA is a separate legal entity with no relationship to any other and without a national umbrella SPCA. The SPCAs share no funding, board members, programs and policies. Notwithstanding confusion to the contrary, each SPCA is neither a chapter of the ASPCA nor affiliated with it legally or otherwise.

Bloggers in the animal welfare business routinely warn the public to research and become educated donors before making contributions to their favorite animal charity. While many charities do good work, it is important to avoid sending funds to an organization to which there was no intention to so contribute.

This confusion by consumers is not unique to America. The Scottish SPCA is similarly lumped in with the RSPCA as also the Moncton SPCA with the Canadian SPCA.

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