RSPCA Australia

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RSPCA Australia
RSPCA logo 2014.gif
Motto For all creatures great & small
Formation 1981 (1981)
Legal status Charity[1]
Headquarters Deakin, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
President Eileen Thumpkin[2]
Budget A$80,000,000[3]
Staff 1,000[3]

RSPCA Australia (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is an Australian peak organisation established in 1981 to promote animal welfare. Each state and territory of Australia has an RSPCA organisation that predates and is affiliated with RSPCA Australia. The national body is funded in part by the Australian Government but relies on corporate sponsorship, fundraising events and voluntary donations for its income. It describes itself as a "federated organisation made up of the eight independent state and territory RSPCA Societies."[4]

RSPCA Australia defines its purpose as being the leading authority in animal care and protection, and to prevent cruelty to animals by actively promoting their care and protection.[5]


The first meeting of the RSPCA was held in February 1981. During 1980, two meetings were held to determine the formation of a national RSPCA body. The objective of RSPCA Australia is to provide a national presence for the RSPCA movement and to promote unity and a commonality of purpose between the state and territory based bodies.

The Australian-based RSPCA societies owe their origins to the SPCA movement in England and Wales. Although no formal link exists between the RSPCA in both countries it is the UK experience that led to the formation of societies in the Australian colonies.

The first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Australia was formed in the colony of Victoria in 1871. This was followed by Tasmania in 1872; New South Wales in 1873; South Australia in 1875; Queensland in 1883; Western Australia in 1892; Australian Capital Territory in 1955 and Darwin in 1965.

The Royal Warrant was given to all the SPCAs in 1932.

The national Council of RSPCA Australia meet three times a year. Each affiliate RSPCA has two members on the national Council. The Council meets to formulate new policies and offer advice to government and industry bodies on animal welfare issues.

Purple Cross Award[edit]

The RSPCA Purple Cross Award was first awarded to an Australian Silky Terrier named Fizo on 25 September 1996. It was implemented to recognise the actions of animals, particularly if they have risked their life to save a person from injury or death. The award was named after the Purple Cross Society, which was established after the Second World War to provide equipment for the Light Horse Brigade.[6] On 19 May 1997, the RSPCA posthumously awarded Private John Simpson's donkey 'Murphy', and all the other donkeys used by Simpson, the Purple Cross Award for 'the exceptional work they performed on behalf of humans while under continual fire at Gallipolli during World War 1 (1915)'.[7] On 5 April 2011, the Australian special forces explosives detection dog 'Sarbi' also received the Purple Cross Award, at the Australian War Memorial.[8][9]

Animal Welfare Enforcement[edit]

The state and territory RSPCA entities employ Inspectors who are appointed under state and territory animal welfare legislation. This legislation gives inspectors a range of powers that vary according to state or territory, primarily focused on investigating cases of animal cruelty and to enforce animal welfare law.[10] RSPCA's are in most states the only private charity with law enforcement powers.

State branches[edit]

RSPCA Victoria[edit]

RSPCA Victoria was established in 1871. As of 2014 it manages 10 animal shelters across Victoria and like all other state RSPCA's besides Darwin operates an animal cruelty inspectorate on behalf of the state government.[11] It is governed by a board of eight directors; the present President of RSPCA Victoria is Dr Hugh Wirth AM KGSJ who has held the position since 1972.[12]

RSPCA New South Wales[edit]

Main article: RSPCA NSW

RSPCA NSW is a not-for-profit charity operating in New South Wales, Australia that promotes animal welfare. The RSPCA NSW was founded in Sydney in 1873.


The RSPCA NSW has been criticised for the fact it has consistently had kill rates above 50% for the duration of Steve Coleman's tenure as CEO.[13] It has had this kill rate despite many local pound working in conjunction with rescue groups managing to get kill rates to 15% or less.[13][14] It is claimed that despite running at a profit ($10 million last year) and having far more public viability than most rescue organisations, as well as the largest total animals destroyed of any single organisation, and was included on a government panel on reducing animal deaths in pounds and shelter, on which rescue groups were excluded. They advised that rather than a mandatory kill limit, better Guidelines be put in place'. There is concern that without a mandatory kill % limit there will be no change in the organisation's practices.[13]

There planned 100 person vigil outside the RSPCA's Million Paws Walk 2013 in memory of Max the Pointer, who it was alleged was put down for claimed behavioural issues that the Justive4Max protest group claimed were unfounded.[15]

There were also concerns that RSPCA NSW fails to work with other animal rescue groups in NSW.[16][17] In the case of the Rutherford facility, records indicate that not a single animal has been released to a rescue group since the 1 August 2011. These have caused such concern that a councillor in Maitland brought forth a motion to see whether the RSPCA might be in a) in breach of its contract that requires the RSPCA to 'consider involving local certified rescue groups to assist in re-homing animals' and b) as a function of a) whether the council is now in breach of the Companion Animals Act NSW section 64 “It is the Duty of the council concerned to consider an alternative action to that of destroying the animal and (if practicable) to adopt any such alternative.”[18]

However in response to these claims Mr Picton of the RSPCA's Rutherford facility stated “ We don’t usually release animals to rescue groups, but there is no law requiring us to”[19]

RSPCA Queensland[edit]

RSPCA Tasmania[edit]


RSPCA Tasmania has had some of the heaviest criticism of all RSPCA branches. From 2008-2010, criticism of the RSPCA’s Tasmanian branch reached the national headlines following a disagreement with Australia's 4th richest woman Jan Cameron, who criticized RSPCA Tasmania on the raising of staff wages, its increased euthanasia rates, its lowered number of accepted animals[20] and for mismanagement of the board,[21] resulting in her withdrawal of millions of dollars of pledged funding. Criticism by a string of former board members also reached the headlines after Susanna Cass, former President of the Tasmanian branch, resigned from the board and then later had her membership revoked because a statement made by Cass in the media "negatively impacted on the society's ability to meet its objectives", according to the RSPCA's official release.[22] She later accused the board of spending money on unrequired bureaucracy instead of animal welfare.[23]

Director John Bates also resigned from the state board in 2009 and later had his membership revoked and was disallowed from volunteering at the Hobart RSPCA shelter after he raised concerns about management of donations by the branch.[24][25][26] Further troubles with volunteers, including other board members, took place in 2008 and 2009 when the RSPCA Tasmania controversially sacked manager of the Burnie Shelter Joan McQueen, and was forced to pay out an undisclosed amount to Mrs McQueen following the Burnie City Council seeking a meeting to discuss the matter and a mass walkout of Burnie Shelter RSPCA volunteers.[27][28][29][30] The RSPCA later revoked the membership of the estranged husband of Joan McQueen, Mick McQueen - former chairman of the board - for an altercation on the day of his wife’s sacking with the Chairman at the time Dr Rick Butler. Mr McQueen later criticized the RSPCA board as having a 'boys club mentallity'.[31]

On the 13 November 2012 the Green's Animal Welfare Spokesperson (Cassy O'Connor) called on the Deputy Premier to step in and dismiss the current board of 3. The Minister indicated that unfortunately he did not have the power to take such action under any legislation in Tasmania. On the same day with unanimous support it was moved by the State Parliament that the affairs of RSPCA Tasmania and the usage of tax payer money be investigated by the Public Accounts Committee [32]

In November 2012 the board of RSPCA Tasmania sacked its CEO Ben Sturges (son of the MP Graeme Sturges) after an independent investigation by James O'Neill and Associates that alleged he had bullied and threatened staff and their jobs, made derogatory comments about the RSPCA Tasmania board and withheld information from them, deleted portions of emails and destroyed a work laptop. The investigation also concluded he had artificially created the position of Chief Veterinarian for the organisations only veterinarian with who he was in a relationship with, therefore entitling her to a pay rise.[33] Ben Sturges initially took the matter to Fair Work Australia to dispute his sacking and requesting reinstatement. He withdraw his complaint on the 7th of February, the day he was due to give evidence to Fair Work Australia[34][35]

In relation to the incident, calls were made by former President of RSPCA Tasmania Suzanne Cass to have the board of RSPCA Tasmania sacked.[36]

RSPCA South Australia[edit]

RSPCA Western Australia[edit]


RSPCA ACT is governed by a board of 9 directors, elected yearly at an AGM. It operates an inspectorate to enforce animal welfare laws, a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation program, an animal shelter as well as to facilitate fundraising a veterinary clinic, cat boarding kennels, pet supply store, puppy training school and other related services.[37]


In October 2013 it came under fire amid allegations that it had overworked staff, underpayed them and undertook welfare practices staff believed were wrong. Nine staff (a sixth of the workforce) from the RSPCA ACT's shelter took their grievances to their union, United Voice over the issues after they claimed to have been ignored by the organisations board and the ACT government when they raised concerns as early as 2010. The involvement of their Union forced an investigation by the ACT government to be launched.[38] The CEO of RSPCA ACT resigned several days before, unrelated to the issue, but publicly defended his legacy and stated it was simply a small number of disgruntled employees.[39]

RSPCA Darwin[edit]

Unlike other state RSPCA's, RSPCA Darwin does not cover the entire Northern Territory (dealing only with the city of Darwin) and does not possess an inspectorate (that is, animal welfare enforcement branch). It solely manages an animal shelter and attends community events and schools providing education on its mission to raise awareness about animal cruelty. It is managed by a board of 9 directors elected yearly at an AGM.[40] Instead in the Northern Territory, animal welfare enforcement duties are managed by the territory government Animal Welfare Authority.[41]


The RSPCA has received severe criticism over its handling of several cases especially when its officers shot 48 cattle on a Pilliga, New South Wales district property in June 2008. Some of the cows that were shot left calves motherless.[42] A Walgett veterinarian, Dr Enid Coupé gave evidence that blood tests from the cattle indicated levels of the protein albumin and globulin were within normal levels and did not indicate starvation.[43]

In another controversial case, RSPCA inspectors raided Waterways Wildlife Park in Gunnedah, New South Wales where they sedated and seized eight koalas before taking them to Port Macquarie, New South Wales. Also present was a camera crew from Seven Network’s show RSPCA Animal Rescue who captured footage of the seizure. Waterways Wildlife Park had an Improvement notice issued to them, but the RSPCA did not publicly indicate what the problems were. The NSW Government has pledged up to $5,000,[44] in addition to the tens of thousands of dollars already contributed, to support the park and plan for its future.[45] The RSPCA has since euthanized one of the seized animals.[46]

Temperament test[edit]

Main article: Temperament test

The RSPCA's Temperament test, which it uses as grounds for 60+% of its euthanasia justifications, is not publicly available. Its application and situational use has been criticised as many of the behaviours in it are exhibited by frightened dogs as well, which makes its use unacceptable according to some people. One of the people who claims to have helped devise the test also states it is used incorrectly – that it was intended to be used as a guide to assess the rehabilitation requirements of the dog – not justify euthanising it.[16]

A study by Monash University found that the temperament testing may not be being applied correctly or properly, casting further doubt on its usefulness, as a quarter of people using it to assess dogs had not been trained to, and more than half believed they were not given enough time to assess the dogs.[47]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Rspca Australia Incorporated". Government of Australia. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  2. ^ "Meet the Team". RSPCA Australia. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "About Us". RSPCA Australia. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  4. ^ "How We Govern Ourselves | RSPCA Australia". Retrieved 2014-07-19. 
  5. ^ "Mission". RSPCA Australia. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  6. ^ "RSPCA Purple Cross Award". RSPCA Australia. Retrieved 17 July 2011. 
  7. ^ "RSPCA Purple Cross and certificate of award to Simpson's donkey 'Murphy'". Australian War Memorial Collection. Australian War Memorial. 1997. Retrieved 17 April 2012.  Includes photographs of the medal's obverse, reverse and certificate.
  8. ^ "RSPCA awards Sarbi the Purple Cross". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  9. ^ "Australian military dog awarded rare bravery medal". AFP. 5 April 2011. 
  10. ^ White, Steven. "REGULATION OF ANIMAL WELFARE IN AUSTRALIA AND THE EMERGENT COMMONWEALTH". Federal Law Review. Retrieved 4 August 2014. 
  11. ^ "About Us". RSPCA Victoria. Retrieved 4 March 2014. 
  12. ^ "Board of Directors". RSPCA Victoria. Retrieved 4 March 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c Atwell, David (2012-10-23). "OPINION: Poor rescue groups shame rich RSPCA | Newcastle Herald". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  14. ^ "Pound survey". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  15. ^ Meehan, Michelle (2013-05-07). "Rival rally to protest RSPCA animal kill rate". The Maitland Mercury. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  16. ^ a b "RSPCA criticised over claims test to decide fate of dogs is misused". 2012-10-09. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  17. ^ SBS 'INSIGHTS' 25 September 2012
  18. ^ "Motion asks about use of animal rescue groups | The Advertiser - Cessnock". 2013-03-20. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  19. ^ Cronshaw, Damon (2013-03-25). "Hunter RSPCA kill rates "too high" | Newcastle Herald". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  20. ^ Brain, Rachael (2009-05-06). "RSPCA says millionaire's offer should be no strings attached". The Examiner. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  21. ^ "RSPCA dogfight with millionaire benefactor". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  22. ^ [1][dead link]
  23. ^ "RSPCA rejects criticisms - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". 2010-07-29. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  24. ^ [2][dead link]
  25. ^ "RSPCA's cold shoulder to former director - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  26. ^ Wild, Ben (2009-09-21). "RSPCA chook shed volunteer is told to leave". The Examiner. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  27. ^ Ford, Sean (2009-05-18). "RSPCA pays out sacked manager". The Advocate. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  28. ^ Haneveer, Anthony (2008-05-19). "Claws out over shelter". The Advocate. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  29. ^ [3][dead link]
  30. ^ Ford, Sean (2008-05-27). "RSPCA has a fight on its hands". The Advocate. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  31. ^ Haneveer, Anthony (2008-06-22). "Speaking out over RSPCA". The Advocate. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  32. ^ [4][dead link]
  33. ^ Maloney, Matt (Nov 25, 2012). "Ex-RSPCA chief set for battle". The Examiner. Retrieved 24 Jan 2014. 
  34. ^ Maloney, Matt (Feb 7, 2013). "Former RSPCA chief withdraws action". The Examiner. Retrieved 24 Jan 2014. 
  35. ^ "Sacked RSPCA boss bites back". ABC News. 7 Nov 2012. Retrieved 24 Jan 2014. 
  36. ^ "Call to sack RSPCA board - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". 2012-11-08. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  37. ^ "RSPCA ACT - About Us". Retrieved 24 Jan 2014. 
  38. ^ Tom McLlroy, Noel Towell & (October 16, 2013). "Warnings about RSPCA ignored, say staff". Canberra Times. Retrieved 24 Jan 2014. 
  39. ^ "Canberra RSPCA chief executive Michael Linke resigns". Canberra Times. October 16, 2013. Retrieved 24 Jan 2014. 
  40. ^ "RSPCA Darwin - About Us". Retrieved 24 Jan 2014. 
  41. ^ "Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries - Animal Welfare". 
  42. ^ [5][dead link]
  43. ^ ‘’RSPCA investigated over legals’’, by Lisa Carty, 23 January 2009 The Sydney Morning Herald Retrieved 2010-2-27
  44. ^ "Wildlife park gets business plan funds". ABC New England North West. February 24, 2010. Retrieved April 26, 2012. 
  45. ^ Ferguson, Alysia, Koala Park issued with improvement notice, but ... RSPCA fails to explain breach, p.1 Northern Daily Leader, 24 February 2010, Rural Press, Tamworth, NSW
  46. ^ Port Macquarie News, ‘’Fur flies in koala tug-o-war’’ Retrieved 2010-2-27
  47. ^ "When fate depends on the wag of a tail". 2012-10-13. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 

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