SPCA New Zealand

Our history

The SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) was founded in England in 1824 and is recognised as the world's oldest and most influential animal welfare organisation.

Our history

Our British roots

The movement to protect animals started at a time of great animal use - and abuse. Animals were used in many situations to carry and move things, and 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 a dedicated group of people, in particular William Wilberforce of anti-slavery fame, and Richard Martin, otherwise known as 'Humanity Dick'. Two years later, in 1824, the Reverend 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 grew the national organisation, SPCA New Zealand. Gradually, smaller communities established their own branches, resulting in over 45 SPCA centres throughout the country by the beginning of this century.

The 17 June 2017 was a turning point in the Society's history: SPCA delegates voted to form one national organisation from its independent centres to create a unified and future-focused national entity, with the change coming into effect on 1 November 2017. Since then we have been One SPCA in New Zealand.

Inspector on horse working with the Army Veterinary Corps, France, circa 1915 © RSPCA photolibrary
Inspector on horse working with the Army Veterinary Corps, France, circa 1915 © RSPCA photolibrary

Moving with the times

In its early days, cases the organisation dealt with usually involved working animals. Cruelty to horses was common - overloading, beating, insufficient food and water, and working of unfit horses. Cattle, fowls and dogs were other animals that often suffered at the hand of humans.

Since those early beginnings, the SPCA has continued to be at the forefront of animal welfare across New Zealand. We have become far more than just a law enforcement agency and a shelter for homeless animals.

Our focus is no longer just on safeguarding animals under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 but has shifted to preventing animal abuse before it happens. To do this, we work with our communities and government to teach people about animal welfare and improve animal welfare laws.

We know that New Zealand is a nation of animal lovers, and we believe that together we can make real change happen and create a community where all animals are treated with compassion and respect.

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