The Minnesota Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was organized in 1869 for the purpose of enforcing humane laws and preventing cruelty to children as well as animals. In 1871 the legislature ordered that all fines collected under the laws preventing cruelty to animals be given to the society (Laws 1871 c34 s12).
The society was given official status and powers in 1889 with the title Minnesota Society for the Prevention of Cruelty (Laws 1889 c224). For the general purposes of prevention of cruelty the officers of this society had the powers of constables, sheriffs, or police officers and could interfere to prevent any act of cruelty. Presidents of local cooperating societies were ex officio vice presidents of the state society. The society was constituted as a state bureau of child and animal protection in 1905 (Laws 1905 c274). At this time it also began to be referred to as the state humane society.
The governor, the superintendent of public instruction, and the attorney general served on the board of directors. The bureau was specifically charged with securing the enforcement of laws for the prevention of wrongs to children and animals, and with organizing local societies. Under the reorganization act of 1925, the society was put under the jurisdiction of the Board of Control, Department of Public Institutions. Activities dealing with the protection of children were taken over by the Children's Bureau. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty functioned as a division of the Board of Control, dealing with the prevention of cruelty to animals and providing a humane education program. The education program was discontinued in 1933 due to lack of funds.
The society's independence was restored when the Board of Control was abolished in 1939 (Laws 1939 c431). The children's work was transferred to the Department of Social Security and the society reinstated an extensive humane education program. The primary functions of the society were to investigate complaints and enforce humane laws, inspect cattle trucks for proper loading and transportation, and inspect livestock markets. A junior humane society was also inaugurated in 1939 with free membership to any child.
In 1971 the legislature authorized the society to designate itself as the Minnesota Humane Society (Laws 1971 c85). The title Minnesota Society for the Prevention of Cruelty was officially dropped in 1977 when the society became a state agency (Laws 1977 c264). More than 85 percent of the operating funds come from contributions of members and supporters.
The society secured the enforcement of laws for the prevention of wrongs to animals. It assisted in the organization of district and county societies and the appointment of local and state agents. It also promoted the growth of education and sentiment favorable to the protection of animals through legislation, investigations, and the development of humane education programs.
The society was governed by a seven-member board of directors and an executive director who are all appointed by the governor. Representatives from the governor's office, attorney general's office, and Department of Education served as ex officio members of the board. A representative from the Board of Animal Health also served as a guest of the board.
The society was abolished by the legislature in 1987 (Laws 1987 c394). The law authorized the establishment of a federation of county and district societies and transferred the powers and duties of the former state society either to the federation or to the county or district societies.
(Source: Minnesota Historical Society - State Agency Histories)
The Minnesota Humane Society continues to operate as a nonprofit organization under chapter 317A.