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History

Since its inception in 1879, the Wisconsin Humane Society has become one of the most established and well-recognized non-profit organizations in the community.

For more than 130 years, the Wisconsin Humane Society (WHS) has been providing quality, cost effective services for homeless animals. It is the largest humane society in Wisconsin and one of the largest in the United States. Because of our long and illustrious history of serving the Milwaukee community, we are also known as the Milwaukee Humane Society.

The work of the Wisconsin Humane Society is based on the model created by Henry Bergh, the founder of the humane movement in North America.

WHS has cared for literally millions of animals in the past 130 years and touched the hearts of millions of people. Founded by colorful and energetic community leaders like Frederick Pabst and Samuel Marshall, many of them dedicated their lives to pursuit of helping animals.


Henry Bergh

Henry Bergh, a resident of New York City, is regarded as the father of the humane movement in the United States.

The only known statue of him in the nation proudly resides right outside of the Wisconsin Humane Society. Henry got a late start in the field of animal welfare, beginning his illustrious career in his mid 50's when he was a diplomat in a Russian court. Having grown up an aristocrat, Henry had access to influential individuals and used his position to make significant changes for the betterment of animals.

Mr. Whitehead was known to be a kindhearted, honest man. He was the first Superintendent of the Wisconsin Humane Society from its inception in 1879 and remained in that position for more than 25 years. Of course, in those days, WHS dealt with crimes against livestock and children more often than dogs and cats.

Lenore Cawker had always had dreams of becoming an artist, but her commitment to animals took her life in another direction. She was a member of the WHS Board of Directors and she ran and financed what was then called the city pound single-handedly from 1906 to 1930. During those years, animals were cared for in her parent’s barn, which was fitted to care for animals, as well as other properties Lenore had purchased as the need arose.

While the issues have changed over the years, the Wisconsin Humane Society’s commitment to animals has remained steadfast. Today, the Wisconsin Humane Society is in the vanguard of animal welfare, setting national trends and reaching out to animals and people well beyond our state lines. Thanks to the support of a committed group of individuals in our community who love animals, the Society continues to provide lifesaving care for thousands of animals each year and to create a more humane community for us all.