“If Legislation to protect animals is to be effective it must be adequately enforced” – Richard Martin MP 1822 co founder of the RSPCA
The RSPCA was founded by a group of twenty-two reformers led by Richard Martin MP (who would thereby earn the nickname Humanity Dick), William Wilberforce MP and the Reverend Arthur Broome originally as a society to support the working of Richard Martin’s Act. This Act had been passed in Parliament on 22 July 1822 and was against cruelty to farm animals, particularly cattle.
The group assembled at the “Old Slaughters” Coffee House in London to create a society with the will and authority to enforce the new law. The SPCA, the first animal welfare society in any country was thus born and was granted its royal status by Queen Victoria in 1840.
At first the organisation did not employ Inspectors. A committee inspected the markets, slaughterhouses and the conduct of city coachmen.
Rev Arthur Broome, from his own funds, employed a Mr Wheeler and his assistant, Charles Teasdall. In 1824 they brought sixty three offenders before the Courts.
In the late 1830s the Society began the tradition of the Inspector, which is the image best known of the RSPCA today.
By 1841 there were five Inspectors, each paid a guinea a week, based in London, who travelled to various parts of the country bringing suspected offenders before the Courts.
News of the work of the Society spread outside London. By 1842, campaigners in Bath, Brighton, Bristol, Coventry and Scarborough had all requested the appointment of an inspector of their own. With the increasing number of donations and bequests the Society was attracting, there were funds to expand beyond the capital.
Regional inspectors were appointed, with local campaigners promising to raise £20 a year towards ‘their’ inspector’s wages. This development created the nucleus of a national network of 175 branches in England and Wales that exists today.
Each year the RSPCA inspectors investigate over 100,000 complaints of cruelty and neglect. The animal collection officers collect over 180,000 sick, injured and abandoned animals every year.