Brief History of the Animal Welfare Movement >
SPCA of Wake County Founded in 1967 >
SPCA Limits Animal Intake >
SPCA Builds New Pet Adoption Center >
SPCA's Commitment to 100% Spay/Neuter >
Brief History of the Animal Welfare Movement
The animal welfare movement in the United States traces its roots back to the post-Civil War era when, although concern for animals was not high on the priority list, a slow shift toward humane reform began when people could not tolerate public displays of animal abuse.
Large cities, like New York, began to see domestic animal problems as people moved off the farms and into urban areas. Encounters between dogs and people began to increase which led the NYC officials to create dog pounds, and the notorious “dog catcher” was born. NYC officials instituted a $.50 bounty for each dog brought to them by the catchers. Between July and August of 1867, NYC government impounded 5,825 dogs, threw them into large crates and lowered the crates into the East River to drown. While many people were relieved at the reduction in the stray dog population, many other people were horrified by the means in which it was done.
In 1866, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was organized in NYC by Henry Bergh, a wealthy New Yorker who was outraged after witnessing cruelty to working horses. He had been to the RSPCA (Royal SPCA) in England, and based the ASPCA on that model of a pro-animal organization. The new ASPCA convinced the New York State Legislature to pass the country’s first anti-cruelty law. (There is no relationship between the SPCA of Wake County and the ASPCA in New York. SPCA is a generic name used by many animal welfare organizations.)
In 1874 when the first case of child abuse was alleged a horribly graphic case of a young girl beaten it was the ASPCA that was called to advocate for the child. At the time, children were considered property and there were no laws against their abuse. However, there were animal-protection laws in place and the girl was successfully defended by using the animal protection law, since, her attorney argued, she was an animal. Subsequently, Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children rapidly came into existence. The link between violence to children and violence to animals has been studied ever since.
An SPCA in Massachusetts was the second in the country to form and by 1876, there were 27 humane societies across the country. By the early 1900s, around 36 private, non-profit, SPCAs and other animal welfare societies cared for and sheltered homeless cats and dogs. Some even employed a veterinarian.
Until this time, all animal impoundment had been performed by local government animal control agencies and funded by tax dollars. Humane leaders were appalled at the harsh and cruel conditions at the government run animal facilities. They believed that government agencies did not have the welfare of the animals as a priority and they, as private non-profit organizations concerned for animal welfare, could do a better job sheltering all homeless animals. The humane society in Philadelphia, followed by the ASPCA, set out to decrease government’s involvement in animal sheltering. Local governments gladly relinquished sheltering duties and sub-contracted with private animal welfare societies. The majority of local governments outside the largest U.S. cities didn’t have this option until much later.
The period after WWII is credited as the time in which pet ownership became popular. By the 1960s, people were moving into the suburbs where a yard and a dog to go in the yard was more likely. Pet ownership numbers increased significantly in the late 1960s and the population of homeless companion animals exploded. The Humane Society of the United States rallied humane agencies to aggressively educate the public about spaying and neutering their pets. Their successful three-tiered approach legislation, education and sterilization is credited with causing a gradual decline in the number of homeless pets euthanized each year.
Meanwhile, in the State's Capital City
In 1967, as the pet overpopulation problem was beginning to capture national attention, Mrs. Martha Gappins in Whiteville, NC passed away and left $5,000 of her estate to help the animals that she loved dearly. Thinking that the capital city of North Carolina surely had a group to help the animals, she left her gift to the Raleigh SPCA. When her trustee called Raleigh in search of the animal welfare society that did not exist, the call found Dot Helms, wife of Jesse Helms, who was active in Raleigh’s philanthropic community.
Mrs. Helms saw the potential in the donated sum and called Diana Maupin (renowned attorney Armistead Maupin’s wife) as someone Mrs. Helms knew was interested in helping animals. Mrs. Helms asked Mrs. Maupin if she would be interested in starting an SPCA in Raleigh and Mrs. Maupin enthusiastically accepted. The society’s first meeting was downtown at the S&W Cafeteria and 200 people showed up. Armistead Maupin incorporated the agency in 1967 and Harry Johnson served as the first president.
From 1967 until the animal shelter was completed in 1971, the SPCA of Wake County took in homeless cats and dogs and kept them at Charley Caldwell’s farm on Six Forks Road. The SPCA’s administration was housed in a tiny office in downtown Raleigh where two elderly gentlemen manned the phones each day and acted as a referral service, matching up people who were looking to adopt pets with people who had found pets and the stray pets that were in SPCA care. During these years, SPCA members raised additional money to purchase land and build an animal shelter. In 1971 the SPCA’s doors opened to accept all incoming animals that needed help.
In 1974 the privately-operated kennels that the City of Raleigh used to impound stray animals came under intense criticism for the inhumane conditions at the facility. Public outcry prompted an investigation and the kennels were shut down. Public officials looked to the SPCA to provide the city with a sheltering program that involved a focus on the humane treatment and rehoming of the animals, which was precisely the mission that the SPCA was founded on. In 1974, the SPCA began its first animal sheltering contract with the City of Raleigh. Sheltering contracts with Raleigh, Cary and Garner continue into 2007.
The SPCA Limits Animal Intake
From 1971 through late 2003, the SPCA operated as an open-admission animal shelter and accepted incoming animals from all parts of the county or state and regardless of available shelter space. As of February 2003, there were two main providers of shelter and reclaim services: the Wake County Government and the SPCA of Wake County (operating the one shelter in Garner). Both shelters operated as “unlimited admission” facilities.
By 2003, the high profile of the SPCA led to an overwhelming influx of animals that taxed SPCA personnel and resources. In 2002, a total of 16,332 animals were impounded within the two shelters. The SPCA took in 8,782 animals 52% of the total impounds for 2002 despite having only 6,000 square feet and 150 kennels.
The government-operated Wake County Animal Shelter took in only 7,763 animals 48% percent of the total impounds for 2002 with 18,000 square feet and 236 kennels
The SPCA was sheltering more than half of the animals impounded in Wake County, despite having half the holding space as the Wake County facility. In order to share the sheltering burden and limited shelter resources available to pets in Wake County, in November of 2003 the SPCA began limiting animal admissions to residents of, and animals found within, Raleigh, Cary and Garner the municipalities that had impoundment contracts with the SPCA.
In 2008, the sheltering contract with Garner ended. Currently, in 2009, the SPCA holds contracts with the City of Raleigh and the Town of Cary.
SPCA Opens New Adoption Facility in March 2004
Incorporating some of the best animal housing techniques from state-of-the-art shelters across the country, the SPCA-Curtis Dail Pet Adoption Center was designed to enhance the image of all shelter animals. This adoption-only, limited admission facility displays pets in a retail-friendly way through glass walls in spacious rooms.
The shelter is designed to be people-friendly and the fact that no animals are euthanized in this facility attracts people in to adopt because it makes them less fearful of being in an animal shelter. Once they are in the SPCA Pet Adoption Center, dispel their false ideas and discover what great animals rescued pets are, this segment of the public will be more inclined to have a positive image of all shelter animals.
The SPCA’s Commitment to Spay / Neuter
In recognition of the importance of spaying and neutering dogs and cats to reduce pet overpopulation, the SPCA made a commitment in early 1990 that all animals adopted would be spayed or neutered prior to adoption, instead of relying on owner compliance (which the organization had done since the early 1970s.)
In 1996, the SPCA reached 100% sterilization of all animals prior to adoption. In 1996, the SPCA hired a full-time veterinarian and surgery technician to complete all spay and neuters. The SPCA also instituted a Lower Cost Spay/Neuter Voucher Program in 1996. Local veterinary practices are contracted to participate and currently more than 20 practices participate. In 2002, the SPCA set $50,000 as the income limitation for purchasers of the voucher. However, owners who exceed income limits can give a $10.00 donation and receive a 20% discount with the participating veterinary practices.
The SPCA’s role for the future includes developing expanded spay and neuter programs including a subsidized spay/neuter program for people on government assistance and a community-wide public education campaign on the benefits of spay/neuter surgery.