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Our History
A little bit about the history of the RSPCA - from its founding to the present day!

Help us to meet the demands of unforeseen medical attention that animals like Ruby so urgently need.

History of the RSPCA

The RSPCA was founded in a London coffee shop in 1824. The men present knew they were creating the world's first animal welfare charity, but they couldn't have imagined the size and shape that the charity would become today.

When it was first founded, the organisation was called the SPCA - Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Royal patronage followed in 1837 and Queen Victoria gave permission to add the royal R in 1840, making us the RSPCA as we're known worldwide today.

How times change

When the RSPCA was founded, the focus of the organisation was working animals, as that was the common purpose for animals at the time. This included 'pit ponies', who were working down the coal mines. 

During the First and Second World Wars, the RSPCA worked to help the millions of animals enlisted to serve alongside British, Commonwealth and Allied forces. 

Over time, it became more popular to keep pets and now it is the RSPCA's work with pets that we're best known for today, even though it was not the original purpose of the organisation.

How the RSPCA has influenced law

In 1822, two years before the RSPCA was founded, 'Martin's Act' was passed. This was the very first animal welfare law and it forbade the cruel and improper treatment of cattle. Thirteen years later, in 1835, the 'Pease's Act' consolidated the law. The prohibition of cruelty was extended to dogs and other domestic animals, bear-baiting and cock-fighting was forbidden, and the standards for slaughter houses improved.

Other successes along the way have included laws for laboratory animals, the abolition of fur farming in the UK, the ban of fox hunting with dogs and the Animal Welfare Act.

The Branches

The Branches, like ourselves, are independently run charities who exist primarily to support the Inspectorate, who work under the National RSPCA. Therefore we must raise all the necessary funds to remain open ourselves. There is a network of over 160 Branches across the UK, some of them with large animal centres, some with no animal centres at all. But we all work for the same purpose, which is improving the lives of animals across Britain. 

To hear more about our Branch and the work we do, see our 'About Us' page.