Barking up the right tree

October 24, 2019


The Cape May Wave (forerunner of the Star & Wave) reported on the doings of the local chapter of the Society or the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals occasionally, including this blurb from August 15, 1896:



“The Cape May District Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was organized June 4, 1885 and is therefore 11 years old. Much good has been accomplished, both by force of aggression and by the very reason of its existence. A great many cases of cruelty of their masters, and many of those cruel masters punished. Dr. Emlen Physick was made President of the Association at the beginning of its career and is still the active head. Few societies have a record of accomplishing more valuable results than the Cape May society.”


Dr. Physick must have had a real desire to bring justice to those who abused their animals, since he remained the head of the Society for so many years. Remember how crucial animals were to transportation and the local economy one hundred years ago? Protection of domestic animals involved much more than pets; livestock and draft animals were a part of almost everyone’s daily lives in the 19th century. Nearly everyone owned a least a couple of chickens, if not one or more horses or cows.


The Cape May S.P.C.A. held its annual meeting shortly after the above newspaper mention. Dr. Physick himself made a speech to the Society, and it was printed in the September 5, 1896 Cape May Wave:



"The S.P.C.A. of the Cape May District, held its annual meeting at Carroll Villa on Tuesday evening, Dr. Emlen Physick in the chair. The usual routine of business was gone through, the agent’s report read, etc. Dr. Emlen Physick, who has been president of the society from its beginning, spoke as follows of the history and work of the society, which was organized on June 4, 1885, 11 years ago.


Many reverses and some litigations have been met and overcome. At the start we were opposed in various ways, and the feeling in some directions was very much against us, many seeming to believe that the society was one organized by the rich to oppress the poor, while really the society was in the interest of the poorer classes, as has been amply demonstrated. One thing against the society was its poverty. Those who should have helped us in this noble work sometimes opposed us. To be sure, many of the cases of cruelty were found among the poor, but the society’s work has remedied this very greatly. The membership has steadily increased, yet our annual receipts have fallen off on account of the neglect of payment of the annual subscription.


There were no cases prosecuted in court the past year. Disabled animals temporarily suspended from labor, 54. Animals destroyed, large and small, 23. Complaints received and investigated, 103. The work was accomplished at an expense of about $300.


The society would probably have gone out of existence but for the support given it by Miss Knight and Miss Ferguson, for which they are deserving the highest praise, and by the assistance of our attorney, we have been able to push the work along without any serious entanglements. Though in great need of more money we are not thinking of going out of existence. Through a policy of education, very often those guilty of neglect or cruelty have been handled in a manner to avoid prosecution, advice and admonition answering the purpose. No one need hesitate to join the society, whether rich or poor, for all will be treated alike. The poor man, interested in the care of animals, is always a welcome member.


The president is about to provide the agent of the society, Mr. George Young, with a home free of expense to the society, and rent free to Mr. Young, so long as he remains the faithful, honest agent of the society that he always provide to be. The president has always found Mr. Young energetic, careful and honest, and has every confidence in him. A trust fund for the society is one of President Physick’s plans for providing the means for its support."


The old officers were re-elected and the name of J. H. Hughes added to the Executive Committee.