RSPCA Australia

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RSPCA Australia Inc
Mottofor all creatures great & small
Formation1981 (1981)
HeadquartersDeakin, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
National PresidentLynne Bradshaw
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RSPCA Australia Inc
Mottofor all creatures great & small
Formation1981 (1981)
HeadquartersDeakin, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
National PresidentLynne Bradshaw

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.

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.[1]

RSPCA Inspectors are Special Constables, and often attend prosecutions of animal mutilators and abusers. Being Special Constables means that Australian RSPCA Inspectors in some scenarios can act as the equivalent of police officers with some police powers.


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 Northern Territory 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.

Mission statement[edit]

The objectives of the Society are:

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.[2] On 19 May 1997, the RPSCA 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)'.[3] On 5 April 2011, the Australian special forces explosives detection dog 'Sarbi' also received the Purple Cross Award, at the Australian War Memorial.[4][5]


As of 2013 RSPCA programs include:[6]

Living Ruff[edit]

Living Ruff is a programme to assist people who find themselves homeless to keep their pets with them so as to reduce both the distress of a person who has suddenly homeless through no fault of their own and their pet, and include programmes like: access to food for pets, emergency boarding and foster care for the pets of people who find temporary accommodation and access to vet services.[7]

Pets Of Older People[edit]

A Program developed to assist older people by caring for their pets when they need medical treatment, assistance with grooming their pets and home visits to assist with basic care. This program is targeted to socially isolated people who are over the age of 65 or in palliative care.[8]

Safe Bed for Pets[edit]

This is a program to provide housing and care for the pets of people who are victims of domestic violence

Community Animal Welfare Scheme[edit]

This is an initiative run jointly with many organisations including councils and Veterinary hospitals. Its goal is to reduce unwanted companion animal populations through educating about many of the responsibilities of pet owners, to increase de-sexing rates in the companion animal community and promote responsible pet ownership.

Dog Rehabilitation Program[edit]

The Dog Rehabilitation Program is jointly run with the Commissioner of Corrective Service NSW. It aims to give minimum security prisoners skills in the pet related industry by giving the prisoners nationally accredited training, while rehabilitating dogs so that they can be re-homed


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.[9] 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.[10]

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,[11] in addition to the tens of thousands of dollars already contributed, to support the park and plan for its future.[12] The RSPCA has since euthanized one of the seized animals.[13]

Temperament test[edit]

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.[14]

Also there has been a study By Monash university found that the temperament testing may not be being applied correctly or properly, casting further doubt on it’s usefulness, as a quarter of people using it to asses dog had not been trained to and more than half believed they were not given enough time to assess the dogs.[15]

Criticism of Tasmanian Branch[edit]

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 [16]

In November 2012 the board of RSPCA Tasmania (Which consists of only 3 members) has once again sacked its CEO after an apparent 'independent' investigation. Half of the RSPCA Tasmania board resigned in the 3 months prior to the latest sacking all of whom indicated great concerns for the governance of the society. Members of the staff of RSPCA Tasmania presented a petition to the state government in August 2012 indicating that they had 'no confidence in the board to manage the affairs of the society' and that the board had caused the society to be 'virtually broke'.

Calls have been made in the media for the board of RSPCA Tasmania to be sacked.[17]

The Annual General Meeting of the Tasmanian Branch was abruptly adjourned when the chairman had an issue with proxy votes to be used at the meeting on the 15 September 2012. As of November 2012 the society has not held its Annual General Meeting much to the concern of the membership.

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[18] and for mismanagement of the board,[19] 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.[20] She later accused the board of spending money on unrequired bureaucracy instead of animal welfare.[21]

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.[22][23][24] 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.[25][26][27][28] 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'.[29]

Criticism of NSW Branch[edit]

High kill rate[edit]

By its own reports the RSPCA NSW has consistently had kill rates above 50% for the duration of Steve Coleman's tenure as CEO.[30]

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.[30][31]

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.[30]

Parvovirus outbreak[edit]

The Parvovirus outbreak in the hunter region was first reported in November 2012.[32]

Despite this being an ongoing problem at the time of the RSPCA's Million paws walk on May 19, 2013[33] there was no official warning about it nor a postponement of the event.[citation needed]

In fact it wasn't until the 30th of May that any information was published regarding the half price vaccinations available with the RSPCA's support.[34] The delay in information and failure to postpone the event potentially put many animals at risk.[citation needed]

In a side note there was a planned 100 person vigil outside the RSPCA's Million Paws Walk in memory of Max the Pointer, A dog put down shortly after last years Million Paws Walk.[35]

Work with other animal rescue groups[edit]

There have been concerns that RSPCA NSW fails to work with other animal rescue groups in NSW.[14][36] Despite repeated denials of a failure.

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 has 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.”[37]

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”[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mission". RSPCA Australia. Archived from the original on 2008-07-27. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  2. ^ "RSPCA Purple Cross Award". RSPCA Australia. Retrieved 17 July 2011. 
  3. ^ "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.
  4. ^ "RSPCA awards Sarbi the Purple Cross". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  5. ^ "Australian military dog awarded rare bravery medal". AFP. 5 April 2011. 
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ "A helping paw for homeless pets". 2011-10-06. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  8. ^ "Wollondilly Gardens Retirees Save Dog’s Life · News · Anglicare - NSW South, NSW West & ACT". 2012-10-03. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  9. ^ [2][dead link]
  10. ^ ‘’RSPCA investigated over legals’’, by Lisa Carty, 23 January 2009 The Sydney Morning Herald Retrieved 2010-2-27
  11. ^ "Wildlife park gets business plan funds". ABC New England North West. February 24, 2010. Retrieved April 26, 2012. 
  12. ^ 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
  13. ^ Port Macquarie News, ‘’Fur flies in koala tug-o-war’’ Retrieved 2010-2-27
  14. ^ a b "RSPCA criticised over claims test to decide fate of dogs is misused". 2012-10-09. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  15. ^ "When fate depends on the wag of a tail". 2012-10-13. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  16. ^ [3][dead link]
  17. ^ "Call to sack RSPCA board - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". 2012-11-08. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  18. ^ Brain, Rachael (2009-05-06). "RSPCA says millionaire's offer should be no strings attached". The Examiner. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  19. ^ "RSPCA dogfight with millionaire benefactor". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  20. ^ [4][dead link]
  21. ^ "RSPCA rejects criticisms - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". 2010-07-29. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  22. ^ [5][dead link]
  23. ^ "RSPCA's cold shoulder to former director - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  24. ^ Wild, Ben (2009-09-21). "RSPCA chook shed volunteer is told to leave". The Examiner. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  25. ^ Ford, Sean (2009-05-18). "RSPCA pays out sacked manager". The Advocate. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  26. ^ Haneveer, Anthony (2008-05-19). "Claws out over shelter". The Advocate. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  27. ^ [6][dead link]
  28. ^ Ford, Sean (2008-05-27). "RSPCA has a fight on its hands". The Advocate. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  29. ^ Haneveer, Anthony (2008-06-22). "Speaking out over RSPCA". The Advocate. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  30. ^ a b c Atwell, David (2012-10-23). "OPINION: Poor rescue groups shame rich RSPCA | Newcastle Herald". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  31. ^ "Pound survey". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  32. ^ Howden, Saffron (2012-11-22). "Owners urged to vaccinate dogs against deadly virus | Newcastle Herald". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  33. ^ Dagwell, Todd (2011-05-15). "Hundreds descend on Morpeth for Million Paws Walk | Newcastle Herald". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  34. ^ Magdoline, Dr (2013-05-30). "OPINION: Plea to protect pets from deadly epidemic | Newcastle Herald". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  35. ^ Meehan, Michelle (2013-05-07). "Rival rally to protest RSPCA animal kill rate". The Maitland Mercury. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  36. ^ SBS 'INSIGHTS' 25 September 2012
  37. ^ "Motion asks about use of animal rescue groups | The Advertiser - Cessnock". 2013-03-20. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  38. ^ Cronshaw, Damon (2013-03-25). "Hunter RSPCA kill rates "too high" | Newcastle Herald". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 

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