History of the RSPCA in Western Australia

Early Days 

The Western Australian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (now RSPCA WA) was established on 2 August 1892 by a reading circle of female friends, with a membership fee of one shilling.

The Society was an initiative of Miss Best, a teacher from the St George's School in Perth, who was joined by Mrs Ethel Burt, Mrs Edith Cowan (pictured right), Mrs Madeline Onslow and Miss Wigglesworth to form its first committee. His Excellency the Governor, Sir William Cleaver Francis Robinson, became Patron of the RSPCA in1893. To this day, the State's Governors give their patronage to the Society.

RSPCA WA continues to uphold the original objectives set out by its first committee, to:

- Prevent cruelty to animals by enforcing the existing law

- Establish further legislation to protect animals

- Educate the public in responsible animal care.


Inspectors and Legislation

With only one salaried Inspector in 1894, meeting the needs of the community was often arduous and the inspector's lifestyle tiring. Titus Lander held this position until 1911 when he was elected to Parliament for the Labor-held seat of East Perth, later presenting the first animal welfare bill in Parliament.

He also established a Lethal Chamber at his Highgate house in 1907, in order to ensure stray cats and dogs were put down humanely instead of roaming and scavenging, facing further pain and misery.

A second RSPCA Inspector, Lachlan Bates, was appointed in 1906 to work the Eastern Goldfields.

The authority of RSPCA Inspectors today is much stronger than that of their counterparts in the early days as a result of changes to laws governing the Society.

These original laws were the Police Act (55th Vict.) and the Dog Act (47th Vict.) which saw maximum penalties for animal cruelty set at £10 or three months imprisonment.

These laws also required RSPCA Inspectors to be accompanied by police officers to enter properties or make arrests as they did not hold those powers themselves. The first Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (WA) passed in 1912 and was updated in 1920.

The Dog Act (WA) was introduced in 1976 to amend and consolidate the law relating to the control and registration of dog ownership.

In 1980, the RSPCA advised dog ear tattoos for easier identification and also suggested that maximum penalties for animal cruelty be increased through the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (WA) was instituted in 1988.

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Key Dates

2 February 1892 Members of the St George's Reading Society in Perth resolved to form an SPCA.

2 August 1892 Society formally constituted under the name The West Australian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

11 August 1914 Society registered under the Associations Incorporation Act 1895 - name changed to The WA Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Incorporated).

25 September 1920 Becomes The WA Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Incorporated) after King George V offered Royal Patronage - the first Society outside of the UK to enjoy Royal Patronage.

21 June 1950 Becomes The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Western Australia (Incorporated)

May 1998 First Million Paws Walk - event has now become the RSPCA's biggest annual fundraising event.

Funds raised contributed to the construction of a dedicated animal shelter in Malaga, which has provided the RSPCA with the ability to find new homes for thousands of neglected, abused and abandoned animals.

17 October 1999 Malaga Animal Welfare Centre Ground Breaking Ceremony by the Governor Major-General Michael Jeffrey.

25 June 2000 Official opening by Premier Richard Court of Stage Two of the Centre including dog exercise yards.

2001 State Government honours promise to introduce new animal welfare legislation and to provide a recurring grant of $250,000 per year to the Society (raised to $500,000 in 2011).

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Legislation in WA

1892 New Police Act includes animal protection laws for '... any beast, bird, reptile, fish, or other living creature, or any egg or spawn thereof', and '... any native or acclimatised animals or birds which may be on any park or public road or reserve...".

The first legislation is adopted to protect sea lions and other pinipeds from slaughter for pelts.

1912 First Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act adopted by Parliament.

1920 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1920 - maximum penalty for an offence was $200 and one year imprisonment.

Powers of inspection and prosecution were conferred upon officers appointed by The Society and special constables appointed by the Court. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Kalgoorlie was also named in the Act, but has since closed. 

(RSPCA WA once again has an Inspector in Kalgoorlie.)

1976 The Dog Act (WA) introduced to amend and consolidate the law relating to the control and registration of dog ownership.

2002 Animal Welfare Act 2002 replaced the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1920. The maximum penalty increased to $50,000 and two years imprisonment for individuals, and $250,000 for corporations.

2011 Cat Act 2011 came into full effect 1 November 2013, and includes compulsory microchipping, registration and sterlisation.

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