This project examines municipal animal control in Los Angeles between 1880 and 1909. It traces the emergence of municipal animal control from the confluence of animal welfare reform and progressive state expansion. The animal welfare movement in the United States began in the Colonial Era, but soon reflected the influence of changing attitudes in Europe and the rise of anti-cruelty reform movements after the Civil War. As Americans sought to create a better world out of the ashes of that war, many looked towards animal welfare. This movement occurred first on the East Coast, beginning with Henry Bergh’s founding of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in 1866, and reached Los Angeles by the end of the century. Many in that growing city viewed the dawn of the twentieth century with optimism, hoping for L.A.’s ascendancy into the ranks of the nation’s great metropolises. As a result, they began to look at the city’s problems through an increasingly progressive lens. Newspapers had covered the animal impoundment system’s brutality since the 1880s, but by the end of the century, they carried dramatic exposés of cruelties and corruption at the pound that emphasized connections to larger social issues. Citizens, including an impressive number of women, became activists for animal welfare. The municipal government responded by passing an ordinance that put animal control in the hands of the Humane Animal League, a private animal welfare organization. When the League failed to handle the city’s burgeoning animal population humanely and efficiently, the city assumed responsibility for animal control and created a municipal system. The emergence of municipal animal control in Los Angeles demonstrates a city turning to the extension of state power at the local level to create a more humane and efficient world for both its human and animal inhabitants.
A Municipal Tail: The Rise of Animal Control in Los Angeles, 1880-1909
Sean McCaskill completed his BA in History at the University of California, Davis, in 2013. He earned an MA in History from California State University, Northridge, in 2021. In 2021, he was awarded a scholarship by the Los Angeles City Historical Society that allowed him to continue his research on animal history and Progressive-Era Los Angeles. His interest in animal control goes beyond academia—from 2015 to 2017, he volunteered at Sacramento Animal Control and Regulation and from 2017 to 2019 he worked at the Humane Society of Ventura County.
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Sean McCaskill; A Municipal Tail: The Rise of Animal Control in Los Angeles, 1880-1909. Southern California Quarterly 1 November 2021; 103 (4): 398–436. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/scq.2021.103.4.398
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