Friends of Animals

This is the story of the man who founded the animal and child welfare movements in America. Today it is difficult to believe that organizations for the protection of children and animals did not always exist.

Until 1866, however, there was not a single organization for this purpose. Both animals and children were considered private property. If people chose to mistreat their animals or their children, no one could legally interfere.

On April 19, 1866, this changed, for on that day the first really effective law against cruelty was passed by the New York State Legislature, a law to protect animals from suffering. Three days later the first organization to enforce this law came into being -- The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Eight years later, in 1874, the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was organized. The ASPCA and our current child welfare system are the result of Henry Bergh's efforts to protect animals and children from mistreatment and abuse.