Humane society

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A humane society is a group that aims to stop animal suffering due to cruelty or other reasons. In many countries, the term is used mostly for societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals (SPCA). In the United Kingdom, such societies may provides waterway rescue, prevention and recovery services, or may give awards for saving human life (e.g., Royal Humane Society and Glasgow Humane Society).

MSPCA-Angell in Boston, Massachusetts was founded in 1868 and is the second oldest humane society in the United States[1]


The first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), based on the British Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), was set up in Victoria in 1871.[2] This was followed by New South Wales in 1873;[3] South Australia in 1875;[4] Tasmania in 1878;[5] Queensland in 1883;[6] Western Australia in 1892;[7] Australian Capital Territory in 1955 and Darwin in 1965. The Royal Warrant was given to the WA SPCA in 1920,[8] followed by NSW SPCA in 1923,[9] South Australia in 1937,[10] Queensland in 1955,[11] Tasmania in 1956[12] and Victoria in 1956.[13]

The national organisation, RSPCA Australia, was formed in 1981 to give a national voice on policy matters and advise the federal government on animal welfare issues.[14]


The first SPCA in Canada was the Canadian SPCA founded in Montreal in 1869. The other societies developed on a regional basis and now 123 societies are represented at a federal level by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies.[15]

New Zealand[edit]

Early British settlers brought with them the laws of England, and the English Protection of Animals Act of 1835 was adopted by New Zealand. This was replaced by New Zealand's own Protection of Animals Act in 1878, and the first SPCA was formed in Dunedin in 1882 quickly followed by other societies. In 1933, all the societies amalgamated as a federation and this grew into the present day's Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.[16]

The Humane Society of New Zealand was established as a registered charity in 1975.[17]

United Kingdom[edit]

The first humane societies were founded in the United Kingdom. They included the Royal Humane Society in 1774,[18] the Glasgow Humane Society in 1790,[19] and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in 1824.[20]

The Royal Humane Society is a charity that grants awards for acts of bravery in the saving of human lives, and for the restoration of life by resuscitation. Since its foundation, the society has given more than 85,000 awards.[18] The Glasgow Humane Society is a prevention, rescue, and recovery group set up to cover the waterways of Greater Glasgow, Scotland.

The main animal humane societies in the UK are the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) (founded 1824) and its offshoots, the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) and the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA). There is also the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), founded in 1917, to treat the sick and injured animals of the poor, and numerous other animal rescue charities for wildlife, working animals, and domestic pets.

United States[edit]

The first SPCA in the United States was the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), founded by Henry Bergh in New York City in 1866.[21] Two years later, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded in Boston by a group that included George Thorndike Angell, John Quincy Adams II, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Saltonstall, and William Gordon Weld.[1][22] Examples of other national, nonsheltering humane animal societies include: American Humane Association, which was founded in 1877 as a network of local organizations to prevent cruelty to children and animals.

As of 2012, the Oregon Humane Society adopts the highest percentage of animals in the US nationally with 97% overall adoption rate and a 98% save rate with over 11,000 adoptions annually.[23]

National vs. local humane societies[edit]

Humane societies in the U.S. are independent of similarly named national organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) or American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).[citation needed] While local organizations are concerned primarily with sheltering, adoption, and euthanasia of animals, these national organizations coordinate and address broader issues beyond the scope or resources of the smaller, independent groups.[citation needed]

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) does not operate, control, or fund local humane societies. It does provide support through grants,[24] training of animal care personnel, standards of care, and evaluation services.[25] The HSUS frequently works with shelters in disaster operations and large-scale animal rescues, assisting in the evaluation, triage, handling, transport and care of rescued animals.[26] The HSUS maintains the website for animal care professionals, and publishes a bi-monthly magazine, Animal Sheltering to which 12,300 shelters and rescue groups subscribe.[27]

The HSUS provides national promotion of shelters and animal adoptions, alone or in partnership with other animal protection charities.[28] The Shelter Pet Project is a joint venture of The HSUS, Maddie's Fund, and the Ad Council to promote awareness of shelters and encourage adoptions.

In 1994, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, an industry publication, released the results of the largest study of charitable and non-profit organization popularity and credibility. The study showed that The Humane Society of the United States was ranked as the 6th "most popular charity/non-profit in America" of over 100 charities researched with 42% of Americans over the age of 12 choosing "Love" and "Like a lot" for The Humane Society of the United States .[29]

No kill policy[edit]

Some local humane society shelters are referred to as "no kill." This is most commonly defined as a shelter in which animals are only euthanized when they are deemed unadoptable either because they suffer from an untreatable medical condition or have behavior problems that cannot be resolved.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-07-31. Retrieved 2008-08-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) About the MSPCA-Angell
  2. ^ Barbara Pertzel, For All Creatures: A History of RSPCA Victoria (Burwood East, Victoria: RSPCA Victoria, 2006), p 5. ISBN 0 646 46078 1
  3. ^ See "Prevention of Cruelty to Animals," The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 11 July 1873, p 4
  4. ^ Wallace B. Budd, Hear The Other Side: The RSPCA in South Australia 1875-1988 (Hawthorndene, South Australia: Investigator Press, 1988); also see
  5. ^ See "Prevention of Cruelty to Animals," The Mercury, Saturday 20 July 1878, p 2. also see Stefan Petrow, "Civilising Mission: Animal Protection in Hobart 1878-1914," Britain and the World 5 (2012): pp 69-95.
  6. ^ see
  7. ^ See
  8. ^ see time-line at
  9. ^ "Talk of the Week. Jubilee of RSPCA" Table Talk, 15 March 1923, p 9
  10. ^ Budd, Hear The Other Side, pp 94-95
  11. ^ See RQSPCA
  12. ^ See Tasmanian Government Archives
  13. ^ See Pertzel, For All Creatures, p 97; also see
  14. ^ "Our history". RSPCA Australia. Archived from the original on 2011-11-11. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  15. ^ "Retrieved on 2008-03-24". Archived from the original on 2007-11-03. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
  16. ^ "Work of the SPCA - Whangarei SPCA".
  17. ^ Admin, Lost Pet. "Lost Pet - Pets on the Net".
  18. ^ a b Retrieved on 2008-03-21
  19. ^ "Retrieved on 2008-03-23". Archived from the original on 2008-09-08. Retrieved 2008-03-22.
  20. ^ History of the RSPCA Retrieved on 2008-03-22
  21. ^ "ASPCA". ASPCA.
  22. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-11-17. Retrieved 2008-08-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) MSPCA Historical Timeline
  23. ^ "OHS_Adoption_Statistics". 2007-02-20. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
  24. ^ "HSUS 2009 IRS Form 990, Sched. I-1, Pages 31-74" (PDF).
  25. ^ "How We Help". Animal Sheltering. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
  26. ^ "Animal Rescue : The Humane Society of the United States". 2014-03-28. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
  27. ^ "Who We Are". Animal Sheltering. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
  28. ^ "HSUS 2009 IRS Form 990, Sched. O, Page 89" (PDF).
  29. ^ The Charities Americans Like Most And Least, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, December 13, 1996 And USA Today, December 20, 1994, "Charity begins with health", FINAL 01D

External links[edit]