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An Overview of The American Society for The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (aspca)

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Table of contents

  1. General Description
  2. Organizational Structure / Management / Design
  3. Organizational Environment / Context
  4. Organizational Culture / Power / Conflict
  5. Assessment of the Organization’s Future

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is a privately funded 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation who specializes in preventing cruelty to animals throughout the United States. The ASPCA takes part in assuring all animals have safe and healthy lives, free from ill treatment and neglect. The ASPCA was the first humane society established in North America and is currently one of the largest organizations of its kind in the world. This organization not only protects animals by direct care and rescue, but also works to ensure the protection of animals under the law (ASPCA, 2016). This organization is incredibly wide reaching and has programs and branches throughout the country.

General Description

The mission of the ASPCA is “to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.” This organization was founded on the belief that animals are entitled to kind and respectful treatment by humans, not only by those with compassionate hearts, but as an entitlement under the law (ASPCA, 2016). The ASPCA is concerned with the welfare of animals including: companion animals, food animals and livestock, animals in research and education, animals in entertainment, sport or work, and wild animals (ASPCA, 2016). There are also three key areas of action concerning this organization including animal health services, anti-cruelty initiatives, and community outreach. As of December 2015, the ASPCA has rescued over 12,000 animals across the country (ASPCA, 2016).

The ASPCA serves communities all over the country, having branches in many cities, even one here in New Orleans (LASPCA). The President and CEO of the organization is Matthew Bershadker. There is a very clearly defined hierarchy in the organization including traditional roles such as vice president, treasure, etc. and also many department heads and a board of directors. Due to the size and breadth of this organization and its multiple locations there are a number of people working under the direction of their headquarters, located in New York City. There are thousands of members of the organization across the country. In this organization the minimum requirement to become a member is a yearly donation. There are three levels of membership by donation, depending on amount committed; the highest is a Founder’s Society membership, followed by Monthly membership, and lastly, Regular membership (ASPCA, 2016).

The ASPCA was founded by Henry Bergh and incorporated in 1866 by a special act of the New York State Legislature (ASPCA, 2016). It was originally founded to protect New York City’s working horses, and has grown immensely since then. The organization still maintains a strong presence in New York City, its original home and current location of its headquarters. While the organization is still guided by the same basic principles in preventing animal cruelty, today there is recognition of many other factors surrounding animal welfare as a whole. Today, there is a far greater emphasis on advocacy and education to achieve their goals. This organization has also grown vastly as a legal power, having played a role in the development and passing of multiple animal welfare laws and continuous battles for their cause in the courtroom (ASPCA, 2016).

Organizational Structure / Management / Design

The ASPCA exhibits a multi-divisional organizational structure, as shown in the figure above. The ASPCA has not published any material outlining their management philosophy, but does have a set hierarchy. The company is split into three main divisions including Community Outreach, Animal Health Services, and Anti-cruelty initiatives. (ASPCA, 2016).

The Community Outreach division is comprised of five departments including The Community Outreach Programs Office, Community Initiatives, Adoption Center, ASPCA ProLearning, and Veterinary Outreach. It is responsible for distribution of grant funding and educational literature, and leads trainings for shelters and animal rescues across the country. (ASPCA, 2016).

The second division of the ASPCA is Animal Health Services. It is comprised of three departments including ASPCA Animal Hospital, ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, and Mobile Spay/Neuter Clinics, each covering a different area of animal health and well-being. The Program Office, a department under the Community Outreach division, plays an important integrated role in this division. It provides strategic animal care leadership, medical expert support for media and marketing, medical record harmonization, and training and business support. Furthermore, the Program Office also provides accounting/budget management support to Animal Health Services as well as human resources, office management, and building security and maintenance support for ASPCA’s Urbana, Illinois location. (ASPCA, 2016).

The third division is the Anti-Cruelty Group. It is comprised of seven departments including Field Investigations and Response, Humane Law Enforcement/Cruelty Intervention Advocacy, Forensic Sciences and Anti-Cruelty Projects, ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center, Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team, Government Relations, and Legal Advocacy. Each department addresses different aspects concerning the fight to end animal cruelty in the United States. (ASPCA, 2016).

Organizational Environment / Context

The ASPCA has changed greatly since its founding in 1866. Most change came about due to natural progression and evolution of an organization and growing knowledge of the world around them. The ASPCA has grown considerably in its power and reach through implementation of new programs, divisions, and departments. The organizational structure has become much more intricate and widespread because of the many new battles they face and the addition of new locations across the country.

The physical structure of the organization is headquartered in New York City, where the organization was originally founded. This is the site of the executive leadership and the board of directors, as well as the ASPCA adoption center, mobile spay/neuter clinic, ASPCA animal hospital, and many more important services. The ASPCA also has shelters and animal hospitals around the country. Furthermore, they also work with a large number of partner animal welfare and rescue organizations across the country to train, educate, and assist in the mutual effort toward assuring animal welfare.

The physical structure is very important to an organization. Physical structure is involved in so many aspects of organizational structure and spans over social, cultural, and technological bounds. Creating an identity is an important component of building a solid organizational structure, and can be helped along greatly by utlizing physical structure. This is not only important for employees but also for stakeholders, funders, and associates (Hatch, 2013). Also, at a place like the ASPCA, where there is a large volume of community members served, it also sets a tone for how the organization is viewed from the community and thus has the expectation of the community members in mind as well as all of those more engrained in the company.

The greatest change to the physical structure of this organization is the expansion across the United States. In having so many different locations throughout the country, the organization is under more pressure to maintain a singular identity across all of their branches. Establishing and maintaining an identity to assure a cohesive organization is incredibly important to assuring a solid organizational structure.

Organizational Culture / Power / Conflict

From the somewhat limited information available online, it appears that the Community Outreach division of the organization has the most power due to its wide span of programs affecting other departments, as noted in the organizational structure section. The CEO as well as the Board of Directors both have considerable power in the organization, as any and all decisions are subject to their approval (Bernstein, 2013).

The most notable internal conflict in the ASPCA was that of the Board of Directors (Activist Facts, 2016). The ASPCA board of directors has been historically criticized for not being consistent with the organization’s animal welfare base. Many members of the board throughout the history of the organization have participated in hunting for sport, wearing fur, and participating in “canned hunts” (Activist Facts, 2016). The board of directors has also been criticized for being more focused on social standing than on animals (Bernstein, 2013). It has also undergone numerous disagreements leading to a high fluidity of board members, having had 15 people (of a 20 person board) resign and be replaced over a short seven-year period (Bernstein, 2016).

There have also been a number of external controversies surrounding the ASPCA throughout its history. One of the most prominent controversies was involving the Ringling Brothers Circus. The ASPCA accused Ringling Bros. of abusing their show elephants, however the lawsuit was dismissed in 2009 after the presiding judge found that the ASPCA had paid the key witness in the case to lie under oath. As it turned out, the ASPCA had inspected the Ringling Bros. elephants when the show came to New York just a few years prior, and had found no evidence of mistreatment (Activist Facts, 2016).

Another controversy in the ASPCA in 1994 resulted in the dismissal of four high-ranking members of the organization. The four members were discharged after it was discovered that some workers under their jurisdiction had earned up to $131,000 in overtime per year. This was a gross misuse of money and called attention to the lacking financial structure of the organization and its need to be reorganized and improved (Barbanel, 1994).

Assessment of the Organization’s Future

While the ASPCA has had some controversies over its lifetime, it does appear to be fulfilling its organizational purpose. Because the effectiveness of an organization such as this can be quantified fairly well, it makes it more evident that they have been achieving their goals. With over 4,600 animals adopted out, 12,000 rescued or assisted, numerous country-wide programs, and their multitude of laws enacted and legal advocacy for all animals, it is evident that they have been effective in their mission to save and protect animals. There are also multiple programs in place today throughout the country as they continue to fulfill their purpose (ASPCA, 2015).

There have been many responses to external conditions on the part of the ASPCA; the main conditions being those surrounding animal welfare policy, most notably their role in the enactment of the first animal welfare law in 1866, which was in response to the mistreatment of working and farm animals in New York (ASPCA, 2016). The essential point of this organization is to respond to issues arising all over the country concerning the well being of animals, and they have been very effective in their reactions.

From the research, the managers of this corporation need to focus more on the details and making sure there is oversight of their operations to assure their jobs are being done correctly. One upcoming political condition, the Trump presidency, may prove harmful to the organization as Trump and his family has exhibited actions inconsistent with the endorsement of animal welfare (Beachum, 2016).

Overall, this organization is incredibly important to the wellbeing of our nation’s animals and has accomplished tremendous feats in the name of animal welfare. As Mahatma Gandhi once very wisely spoke, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

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An Overview of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). (2018, May 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 4, 2022, from
“An Overview of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).” GradesFixer, 14 May 2018,
An Overview of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 4 Dec. 2022].
An Overview of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 May 14 [cited 2022 Dec 4]. Available from:
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