The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals originated in England at a time of great animal use – and abuse. Animals were used in many situations to provide motive power (e.g. pit ponies and transport). Blood sports such as bull-baiting and cockfighting were commonplace, providing savage forms of crude ‘entertainment’.
The first law to protect animals was passed in 1822 after a long struggle by several people, in particular William Wilberforce of anti-slavery fame, and Richard Martin, otherwise known as ‘Humanity Dick’. Two years later, in 1824, the Rev Arthur Broome formed the SPCA in London. These three men, with others, proceeded to take many prosecutions for breaches of the new Act. The Society received royal patronage in 1840.
The SPCA in New Zealand
Along with other things British, the early settlers brought with them the laws of England, and thus the English Protection of Animals Act 1835 became part of our law. The first SPCA was formed in Canterbury in 1872, quickly followed by Otago, Auckland and Wellington. The first national law protecting animals was passed in 1878.
In 1933, the various separate Societies decided to amalgamate as a Federation. Out of this has grown the national organisation, SPCA New Zealand. Gradually, smaller communities have established their own branches, resulting in 39 SPCA centres throughout the country.
On 17 June 2017, SPCA delegates voted to form one national organisation from its 40 independent centres to create a unified and future-focused national entity. This change came into effect on 1 November 2017.