Taking on a pet is a big responsibility. Treating them well is your job and their right. We have the power and the responsibility to speak for those who have no voice. April is the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. It’s a great time to talk about how the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA, was started.
The ASPCA was founded in 1866 by Henry Bergh. Bergh served as an ambassador to Russia and spent time in Europe. He chose to act in his home state of New York after witnessing bullfights and the brutal beating of a horse. In addition to fighting the cruel treatment of horses and other beasts of burden at the time, he fought for the humane treatment of hunted animals and animals used as food.
While the ASPCA fights against animal cruelty all year long, the month of April is used to highlight known cases of brutality and push for laws against animal abuse. Animals used in scientific experiments are all part of the protected group that the ASPCA works to shield from harm.
Shining the Spotlight on Brutality Through Awareness
There are acts of abuse, such as dog and cockfighting, that have received a great deal of press and raise sympathies quickly. During the month of April, the 8th is currently known as National Dog Fighting Awareness Day. It’s important to note that the underground dog-fighting industry does more than training strong dogs to fight. For example,
- Dogs raised to fight are kept in severe isolation to increase their fear and aggression
- Other dogs are used as training bait and left to suffer terrible injuries with no care.
- Dogs raised to fight are often docked in unhygienic conditions and with little pain or infection management
- Fighting dogs are often starved to make them more aggressive
- Losing dogs are often abandoned to die of their injuries, or executed as part of the show
On April 26, the ASPCA promotes Help a Horse Day. While horses are seldom used as beasts of burden today, horses are often neglected or abandoned when their care and feeding becomes too burdensome for the owner. The welfare of horses can easily be neglected as the majority of them are kept in rural settings.
Even if you don’t have space nor time for a horse of your own, you can Foster a Horse that has been left without feed or care. Additionally, by promoting Help a Horse, you can encourage potential owners to get the training they need to care for the needs of their horse properly. From proper hoof care to shoeing to the necessary food and exercise, horses deserve owners with a good sense of what their care will require.
Humans Helping Out
There are two groups of humans featured during Animal Abuse Awareness Week. During the second week of April, Volunteers are celebrated. Becoming a visiting care volunteer is a great way to familiarize yourself with the responsibility and joy of caring for a pet. You can enjoy time with animals who are likely in need of companionship. You can learn to care for animals of all shapes and sizes at the side of a dedicated professional. Finally, you will learn when you’re ready for a pet.
During the third week of April, animal control officers who have put a particular spotlight on the prevention of animal abuse will be celebrated. These brave officers must approach frightened and possibly aggressive animals, both wild and domesticated, to remove them from situations in which they or the humans are in danger. Sadly, these officers must also deal with brutal and neglectful humans.
The final awareness day is held on April 24. On this day, the ASPCA promotes awareness of animals used in laboratory experiments. The World Day for Animals in Laboratories includes the chance for a peaceful demonstration.
Not Just In April
Of course, animal abuse prevention and a focus on the welfare of all creatures must continue all year. If you notice a dog or cat in distress or isolation, call someone. If you see a stray in confusion, do your best to bring them to a place of safety while keeping yourself out of danger, and do what you can to find their owner.
Consider helping your neighbors as well. If you have an older or infirm neighbor with a dog that gets out of a broken fence, see if you can help with the mending. If a neighbor is ill or injured, take their dog for a walk. Caring for animals can and should include caring for people. While some people set out to injure animals, many are overwhelmed and become neglectful.
If you’re not sure you’re ready for a pet, you’ve already made a great decision. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the company of animals, however. Have a fundraiser in April. Focus a spotlight on the issue that most resonates with you. Share your passion for horses, for pit bulls and other breeds twisted into fighters, or for animals used in scientific experiments. Once you fall in love with animals, you will never run out of causes that require your passion.