In 1870, admirers of Henry Bergh, a New Yorker who formed the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, decided to establish their own group in St. Louis for the protection of abused animals, primarily workhorses.
In 2020, 150 years later, the organization will handle about 75,000 animals through all of its divisions. The Humane Society of Missouri is an open-admission, 100% adoption shelter, meaning it only euthanizes ill or socially aggressive animals.
The organization has no ties to either the ASPCA or the national Humane Society organization. "We are a completely different entity," says Kathy Warnick, president of the Humane Society of Missouri. "We do not have an umbrella above us and are one of the largest and oldest animal welfare groups in the United States."
A big turning point for the Humane Society of Missouri came in the 1950s when it added the Animal Cruelty Task Force, which investigates cases of cruelty and neglect, mainly of horses, farm animals and dogs throughout the state.
"That enabled us to start receiving many more animals," Warnick says. "We started rescuing them, rehabbing them and then rehoming them, providing millions of animals a second chance at a new home and life."
Other milestones in the past 150 years:
1951 • The Post-Dispatch started "Dog of the Week," featuring a photo of an adoptable pet. You can still find three pets every week on Page 2 of STL Life.
1988 • Longmeadow Rescue Ranch opened in Union to rehabilitate and rehome horses and farm animals.
2001 • Operation SNIP (Spay/Neuter Initiative Program) launched. Funded by donations, the surgeries have helped immensely with the overpopulation problem. "Intake is down 40% — that's a wonderful thing, and that's what we want to see," Warnick says.
2017 • The Best Buddy Pet Center, with its state-of the-art medical facility, opened in Maryland Heights.
To celebrate its anniversary, the Humane Society of Missouri is launching a campaign featuring St. Louis native Andy Cohen, encouraging people to donate $150 at hsmo.org/donate. A 150th Anniversary Gala is Nov. 7 at the Ritz-Carlton.
— Amy Bertrand