The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) is the world's oldest animal welfare organization, founded in 1824 in England as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. RSPCA staff and volunteers work in a variety of ways to protect animals and to improve their lot on Earth, and like many animal welfare organizations, the RSPCA relies heavily on donations from supporters, although it also receives government funding.
The organization was founded in 1824 by a group of reformers spearheaded by Richard Martin, MP, who came to be known as “Humanity Dick,” thanks to his efforts on behalf of human and animal welfare. The organization was initially founded to protect farm animals, later expanding its efforts to include all animals, and in 1840, it was granted a charter by Queen Victoria, turning into the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
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There are 172 branches of the RSPCA in England, founded by local groups of animal welfare advocates. These branches offer veterinary services to both domestic animals and wildlife, along with educational programs, and RSPCA inspectors patrol many parts of England to enforce laws put in place to protect animals. In addition to working in the field, the RSPCA also advocates for animal-friendly legislature, and cooperates with law enforcement organizations and other animal welfare groups.
Several organizations founded to protect animals borrow their name from the RSPCA, since the organization has been such a large inspiration in the animal welfare field. Australia, Scotland, New Zealand, and Ireland all have their own versions of the RSPCA, and in the United States, the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), also advocates for animal welfare.
The mission of the RSPCA includes education about animal welfare issues, enforcement of laws put in place to protect animal welfare, lobbying to strengthen such laws, and working with animal advocacy organizations all over the world to protect animals. In line with these goals, the RSPCA has a number of overseas affiliates, and maintains a contact list of these organizations so that citizens of other countries can quickly access animal welfare groups to report abuse or get involved with campaigns.