The First Dog License

March 8th Celebrates The Dog License

Today on Day’s to Remember, we celebrate how on March 8th 1894, the dog license law enacted in the state of New York, and was the first animal control law in the United States.

Henry Bergh, the New Yorker who helped found the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the passing of numerous laws against animal abuse that his organization would enforce, got his inspiration reportedly from watching a horse driver mercilessly whip his exhausted animal in a vain effort to get it moving again.

There were however many cases of animals suffering that were only indirectly caused by human acts. New York around the turn of the 20th century was rife with wild dogs, the result of an unchecked population. To help curb the dog growth, the state passed the first animal control ordinance in the United States.

On this day, March 8, in 1894, New York announced that dog owners were required to obtain a yearly permit for ownership, at the cost of 2 dollars (about $50 in today’s money). The ASPCA was entrusted with enforcing the new stature.

Pet licenses remain a municipality-decided issue in the United Stats, although near every large one requires them. In recent years several other countries made a federal law requiring pet licenses, including Canada, Australia, and Ireland.

Who was Henry Bergh?

Bergh was born in New York City and studied at Columbia College, after which he worked in his fathers’ shipyard. After the shipyard was sold, Bergh received a share of the inheritance and set forth on a lengthy journey throughout Western Europe with his young bride, Catherine Matilda Taylor.

On returning to the United States, Bergh resolved to work on behalf of animal welfare. Cruelties witnessed in Europe first suggested his mission.

Alone, in the face of indifference, opposition, and ridicule, he began working as a speaker and lecturer, but most of all in the street and the courtroom, and before the legislature.

His cause gained friends and rapidly increased in influence. The legislature passed the laws prepared by him, and on April 10th 1866 the ASPCA was legally organized, with Bergh as president.

When Bergh began his work, no state or territory of the United States contained any statute relating to the protection of animals from cruelty. By 1886, 39 states had adopted substantially the original laws procured by him from the legislature of New York.

In the spring of 2006 at Green-Wood Cemetery, while making preparations to honor Bergh, the ASPCA discovered that his wife was also in that mausoleum.

On May 6, substantive ceremonies were held before a large audience which was allowed to bring their pets into the cemetery – including dogs, for the first time in over a century.

The NYPD Emerald Society bagpipers and ASPCA HLE Agents were there also. After a walk to Bergh’s tomb, the bas-relief statue was revealed that now rests in front. At the same time as these ceremonies, in the cemetery’s large chapel building an exhibit was opened celebrating the history of the ASPCA and Henry Bergh.

As we celebrate how on March 8th 1894, the dog license law enacted in the state of New York, and was the first animal control law in the United States.

Written & Designed by JD Mitchell


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