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Jamaica Plain loves its pets, and you have probably encountered some friendly dogs and cats as you explore the neighborhood. This unusually green urban area also contains many stray or abandoned animals, and the job of finding them homes falls to the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, one of the oldest animal advocacy organizations in the US.
From its front windows, you can see communal quarters for kitties and bunnies in need of families. Even if you're not in the market for a new pet, it's a great place to visit.
This building also houses the MSPCA’s headquarters and Angell Animal Medical Center (known locally by its old name "Angell Memorial”). The cutting-edge veterinary facility accommodates owners who expect their pets to receive care comparable to their own. Angell offers specialties including oncology, nutrition, and reconstructive surgery. The entrances to both the hospital and the adoption center are at the rear of the building relative to S. Huntington Ave.
The MSPCA is also known for its law enforcement division, whose trained and armed police officers have authority to enforce animal cruelty laws. This includes confiscating abused animals and bringing them here for treatment and hopefully adoption.
The first humane societies, originally focused on human and animal rights, were founded in Britain in the 1870s. In 1868, George Thorndike Angell, a lawyer from a prominent Boston family, raised a public objection to an incident in which two horses were literally worked to death. That controversy brought together several prominent Bostonians concerned about animal rights who founded the MSPCA in 1886, two years after the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded in New York. The original board of directors included famous Boston names such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Quincy Adams, and William Gordon Weld (ancestor of the governor and presidential candidate Bill Weld.)
The MSPCA's original home was at 19 Milk St., downtown. In 1976 they moved to this building, and at the time it was the largest facility ever operated by an animal advocacy group.
The red brick wall around the property reflects its original use as a Catholic seminary. It may also reflect Angell’s history of attracting suburban patrons to a location some considered a bad neighborhood. During a 2007 renovation, portions of the walls were modified to make the property more open to the surrounding community.
Cover photo credit: Josh Kastorf