Humane Society of New York: A Brief Look Back

The Humane Society of New York began in Manhattan in 1904 to help the city’s working horses by providing them with water and rest breaks, and, in the winter, they were given blankets and non-skid shoes. By the late 1920s, the watering stations had expanded from Manhattan to Brooklyn, to the benefit of almost 80,000 tired and thirsty horses.

During this same period, the Society raised funds to open a free clinic to “serve dogs, cats, horses and other pets and animals of the poor.” As the demands of the city’s animals grew, funds were raised to open a larger facility.

Stanley, discarded at age 12, was discovered eating from a garbage pail on a cold night and rescued by the Society.

Today, our full-service clinic has transitioned to low-cost, and we still underwrite a great deal of care for animals in need seven days a week, and, along with our Vladimir Horowitz & Wanda Toscanini Horowitz Adoption Center, we care for thousands of dogs and cats each year. Many depend on the Humane Society of New York for the care they need to survive.

Many of us have the day-to-day finances to care for our animals. But if a pet becomes suddenly ill or injured, or an aging pet develops medical issues, the estimate for care can be frightening, far more than many budgets will allow.

Too often animals go without the medical care that is needed. Animal owners need a place that will examine their pets and work with them financially and medically, which we try very hard to do. We are here to help and there are so many who need help.

A photo from 1928 showing horses having non-skid shoes put on so they wouldn’t slip and fall.

Home should be a safe haven but sadly for some animals it is the opposite—a place where they are neglected, forgotten, or disposed of. They might be turned in to a shelter or put out on the street to fend for themselves. The animal has no say in what his life will be.

Only a very small number of dogs and cats remain in one home their whole lives. Fully 90% are given away, or are victims of loss, theft, or abandonment. When they come to us, we must help them cope with the confusion, fear, and loneliness that follow.

We are not concerned about the number of adoptions that we handle. We are, however, very concerned about finding the proper home for each animal in our care. It is our hope that the homes that we find for our dogs and cats will be their homes for their lifetime.

There is a limit to how many animals a shelter can care for—but there should be no limit to the concern, quality, and love an organization can strive to provide for animals in their care. A shelter should not be a holding place or jail, but a place where animals are cared for with deep respect and concern for their well-being. We have tried to lead the way over the years in this area for other shelters to follow.

Our wish for animals, everywhere, is a safe place to lay their heads at night.
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