The RSPCA’s history dates back to 1871, when a public meeting to discuss the ill treatment of horses in Victoria led to the formation of Australia’s first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Following the establishment of a Society in Victoria, other states soon followed. They were:
- Tasmania in 1878;
- New South Wales in 1873;
- South Australia in 1875;
- Queensland in 1883; and
- Western Australia in 1892.
RSPCA ACT was formed in 1955 followed by the Northern Territory in 1965.
In 1923 the Societies were given the Royal Warrant, becoming known as the Royal Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Then in 1965 an informal meeting of all Societies took place in Melbourne. From this, Societies agreed to meet once every two years, on a rotational basis, to discuss mutual problems. Despite this, the occurrence of meetings came down to the enthusiasm of the host Society.
By 1980 it was clear that the RSPCA movement had to become a national organisation to speak with one voice on policy matters, and to offer advice to the Federal government on national animal welfare issues. In May 1980 the eight RSPCA Societies met in Melbourne and agreed unanimously to form a properly constituted national Society.
The new organisation was named RSPCA Australia and formally constituted in the ACT under the requirements of the then Companies Act. Following this, the first meeting of RSPCA Australia was held in February 1981.
The foundation membership of RSPCA Australia was limited to the existing eight RSPCA Societies, being ACT, Victoria, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia.
RSPCA Australia had two major objectives:
- To give the RSPCA movement in Australia a national presence; and
- To promote unity and commonality of purpose between the eight RSPCAs.
In 1998, RSPCA NT Inc. decided to resign its membership of RSPCA Australia. RSPCA Darwin Regional Branch Inc. applied and was accepted as a member Society of RSPCA Australia to replace RSPCA NT Inc. The constitution of the national body was changed accordingly.
Since its initial movement in 1871, the RSPCA has fought relentlessly against animal cruelty. It has witnessed dramatic and positive change in the way that animals are treated within our society and has seen incremental change in legislation governing animal welfare.
The RSPCA is an organisation created by the community and driven by strong community support. Without public backing the RSPCA would cease to function and without the services of the RSPCA the future for thousands of Australian animals would look bleak.