The first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Australia was formed in Victoria in 1871. On July 4th a public meeting was arranged by the Society for the Promotion of Public Morality to discuss the carefree colonial attitude towards animals. The main concern of people who attended the public meeting was the ill treatment of horses.
The establishment of more SPCA Societies soon followed. They were:
- Tasmania in 1872;
- 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 and they became known as the Royal Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
While all bearing the Royal Warrant it was not until the mid-1960s that an informal meeting of all Societies occurred. Societies agreed to meet once every two years, on a rotational basis, to discuss mutual problems. The first such meeting occurred in Melbourne in 1965. Because this was a fairly loose arrangement it was very much dependent upon the enthusiasm of the host Society as to whether a meeting ever occurred.
By 1980 it became obvious 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 RSPCAs met in Melbourne and agreed unanimously to form a properly constituted national Society.
First of all it was determined that it should be called RSPCA Australia, secondly that it should be formally constituted in the ACT under the requirements of the then Companies Act and further that the first meeting of RSPCA Australia should be held in February 1981.
The foundation membership of RSPCA Australia was limited to the existing eight RSPCA Societies, being VIC, ACT, NSW, NT, QLD, SA, Tas and WA.
RSPCA Australia had two major objectives:
1. To give the RSPCA movement in Australia a national presence; and
2. 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 animals would look very bleak indeed.