How animal rights is about humans, too

A young girl with her dog.
A young girl with her dog.

How animal rights is about humans, too

Why the ASPCA wants to keep pets and people together.
July 29, 2019

In 1866, New York became the first state to pass a law against animal cruelty. Legislation a year later tasked the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals with enforcement, which it did until January 2014, when the New York City Police Department took over the job of responding to reports of animal abuse.

The ASPCA still partners with the NYPD to care for mistreated animals and find them homes, but it has been freed up to address other matters. It championed a recent New York City Council law requiring full-service animal shelters in each borough. The ASPCA supports proposed city bans on fur sales and foie gras and a state bill to block pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits. But its primary focus is more basic: keeping people and pets together. And while cynics may complain that animal issues shouldn’t overshadow more pressing matters – like crime or homelessness – the ASPCA says it’s not an either/or proposition. 

“We find that in many places, where human beings are lacking or suffering are the same places where animals are suffering,” said Michelle Villagomez, the ASPCA’s New York City senior legislative director. “So we’re trying to figure out how to help people and their pets.”

In this week’s magazine, we assess where New York is today in terms of animal policy – and what’s coming up next.

Jon Lentz
is City & State’s former editor-in-chief.
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