RSPCA Australia

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RSPCA Australia
RSPCA logo 2014.gif
Motto For all creatures great & small
Formation 1981 (1981)
Type Peak body
Legal status Charity[1]
Headquarters Deakin, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Eileen Thumpkin[2]

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 Gallipoli 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] RSPCAs 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 RSPCAs besides Darwin operates an animal cruelty inspectorate on behalf of the state government. 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.[11]

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.[12] It has had this kill rate despite many local pounds working in conjunction with rescue groups managing to get kill rates to 15% or less.[12][13] It is claimed that this is despite running at a profit ($10 million last year) and having far more public viability than most rescue organisations, as well as the most total animals destroyed of any single organisation, and it was included on a government panel on reducing animal deaths in pounds and shelters, in 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.[12]

A 100-person vigil is planned 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 Justice4Max protest group claimed were unfounded.[14]

There were also concerns that RSPCA NSW fails to work with other animal rescue groups in NSW.[15][16] In the case of the Rutherford facility, records indicate that not a single animal has been released to a rescue group since 1 August 2011. These have caused such concern that a councillor in Maitland brought forth a motion to see whether a) the RSPCA might be 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.”[17]

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”.[18]

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.[19] 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.[20]

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,[21] in addition to the tens of thousands of dollars already contributed, to support the park and plan for its future.[22] The RSPCA has since euthanized one of the seized animals.[23]

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.[15]

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.[24]

RSPCA Queensland[edit]

There are 3,000 volunteers across Queensland. The number of volunteers across the other states and territories is currently not known.

RSPCA Tasmania[edit]

Main article: RSPCA Tasmania

RSPCA Tasmania (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Tasmania) is a charity and law enforcement organisation in Tasmania, Australia. It runs and maintains three shelters for the rehoming of animals, a dog boarding service as well as several other programs. It is also responsible for the enforcement of animal welfare laws in Tasmania.[25]

RSPCA South Australia[edit]


RSPCA Western Australia[edit]

RSPCA Western Australia was established on 2 August 1892 as the West Australian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), by the members of a women's reading circle. William Robinson, the Governor of Western Australia, agreed to become its patron the following year, and all subsequent governors have been patrons. The organisation hired its first full-time inspector, Titus Lander, in 1894, but was unable to hire a second salaried inspector until 1906. Lander was later elected to parliament, where he secured the passage of a bill that became the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1912. The SPCA was incorporated in 1914, and in 1920 received royal patronage, becoming the RSPCA.[26]


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 for a veterinary clinic, cat boarding kennels, pet supply store, puppy training school and other related services.[27]


In October 2013 it came under fire amid allegations that it had overworked staff, underpaid 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.[28] 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.[29]

RSPCA Darwin[edit]

Unlike other state RSPCAs, 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.[30] Instead in the Northern Territory, animal welfare enforcement duties are managed by the territory government Animal Welfare Authority.[31]

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" (PDF). Federal Law Review. Retrieved 4 August 2014. 
  11. ^ "Board of Directors". RSPCA Victoria. Retrieved 4 March 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c Atwell, David (2012-10-23). "OPINION: Poor rescue groups shame rich RSPCA | Newcastle Herald". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  13. ^ "Pound survey". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  14. ^ Meehan, Michelle (2013-05-07). "Rival rally to protest RSPCA animal kill rate". The Maitland Mercury. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  15. ^ a b "RSPCA criticised over claims test to decide fate of dogs is misused". 2012-10-09. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  16. ^ SBS 'INSIGHTS' 25 September 2012
  17. ^ "Motion asks about use of animal rescue groups | The Advertiser - Cessnock". 2013-03-20. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  18. ^ Cronshaw, Damon (2013-03-25). "Hunter RSPCA kill rates "too high" | Newcastle Herald". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  19. ^ Archived from the original on 2 March 2012. Retrieved 18 February 2016.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  20. ^ ‘’RSPCA investigated over legals’’, by Lisa Carty, 23 January 2009 The Sydney Morning Herald Retrieved 2010-2-27
  21. ^ "Wildlife park gets business plan funds". ABC New England North West. February 24, 2010. Retrieved April 26, 2012. 
  22. ^ 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
  23. ^ Port Macquarie News, ‘’Fur flies in koala tug-o-war’’ Retrieved 2010-2-27
  24. ^ "When fate depends on the wag of a tail". 2012-10-13. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  25. ^ "What Do We Do". RSPCA Tasmania. Retrieved 23 October 2014. 
  26. ^ HISTORY OF THE RSPCA IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA, RSPCA Western Australia. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  27. ^ "RSPCA ACT - About Us". Retrieved 24 Jan 2014. 
  28. ^ Tom McLlroy, Noel Towell & (October 16, 2013). "Warnings about RSPCA ignored, say staff". Canberra Times. Retrieved 24 Jan 2014. 
  29. ^ "Canberra RSPCA chief executive Michael Linke resigns". Canberra Times. October 16, 2013. Retrieved 24 Jan 2014. 
  30. ^ "RSPCA Darwin - About Us". Retrieved 24 Jan 2014. 
  31. ^ "Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries - Animal Welfare". 

External links[edit]