Humane society

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This article is about the term describing the type of group. For the American organization, see Humane Society of the United States. For the British organization, see Royal Humane Society.

A humane society is a group that aims to stop human or animal suffering due to cruelty or other reasons, although in many countries, it is now used mostly for societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals (SPCAs). In the United Kingdom, it may also be a society that provides a waterways rescue, prevention, and recovery service, or that gives awards for the saving of human life (see: Royal Humane Society).


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, followed by other SPCAs in Tasmania in 1872, New South Wales in 1873, South Australia in 1875, Queensland in 1883, and Western Australia in 1892, with the other territories following much later.[2]

The SPCAs were given the Royal Warrant in 1923 and became known as the Royal Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, although they have no formal connection with the RSPCA UK. 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.[2]


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.[3]

New Zealand

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.[4]

The Humane Society of New Zealand was established as a registered charity in 1975.[5]

United Kingdom

The first humane societies were founded in the United Kingdom. They included the Royal Humane Society in 1774,[6] the Glasgow Humane Society in 1790,[7] and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in 1824.[8]

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.[6] 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

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 in 1866.[9] 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][10] 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 U.S. nationally with 97% overall adoption rate and a 98% save rate with over 11,000 adoptions annually.[11]

National vs. Local Humane Societies

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. However, it does provide support through grants,[12] training of animal care personnel, standards of care, and evaluation services.[13] 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.[14] 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.[15]

The HSUS provides national promotion of shelters and animal adoptions, alone or in partnership with other animal protection charities.[16] 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 .[17]

No kill policy

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


  1. 1.0 1.1 [1] About the MSPCA-Angell
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Our history". RSPCA Australia. Retrieved 2011-10-04. 
  3. Retrieved on 2008-03-24
  4. Retrieved on 2008-03-22
  5. Humane Society of New Zealand Retrieved on 2008-03-22
  6. 6.0 6.1 Retrieved on 2008-03-21
  7. Retrieved on 2008-03-23
  8. History of the RSPCA Retrieved on 2008-03-22
  9. Retrieved on 2008-03-24
  10. [2] MSPCA Historical Timeline
  11. "OHS_Adoption_Statistics". 2007-02-20. Retrieved 2014-04-12. 
  12. HSUS 2009 IRS Form 990, Sched. I-1, Pages 31-74
  13. "How We Help". Animal Sheltering. Retrieved 2014-04-12. 
  14. "Animal Rescue : The Humane Society of the United States". 2014-03-28. Retrieved 2014-04-12. 
  15. "Who We Are". Animal Sheltering. Retrieved 2014-04-12. 
  16. HSUS 2009 IRS Form 990, Sched. O, Page 89
  17. 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