Monday, March 17, 2014

RSPCA branch organisation

Not exactly a thrilling subject, but some recent discussions have made me think it might be useful to re-post something about the way the RSPCA branch structure works.

The RSPCA was originally founded in 1824 to enforce the new Act for the protection of livestock and to promote improved treatment of animals by a combination of education and parliamentary activity.

The original society was based in London, but over time other groups were set up to promote animal protection in their own local areas. The London Society offered local groups an option to affiliate and pay for the services of a trained inspector who would be deployed to serve their "patch". By the 1940s this had produced a network of branches covering the whole of England and Wales, each fundraising to support their own inspector.

Branches were (and still are) managed by committees elected from the local RSPCA membership by vote of all branch members who attended the annual general meeting. RSPCA branches elect 10 of the 25 members of the National RSPCA Council, with elections taking place on a regional basis.

Originally, the individual branches could keep all the funds they raised once the Inspector's salary was covered and they used these funds in diverse ways to address the particular problems of their own locality. Some (like our branch in Cambridge) set up clinics for low-cost treatments, others ran animal homes, tried to save oiled seabirds and so on. In the meantime the National Society continued to press for better legal protection for animals and operated its own projects, such as strategically placed hospitals, regional animal homes, and equine facilities.

As branch activities, such as rehoming animals taken in by inspectors, became more important and funds directly raised by the National Society increased, so the requirement for branches to fundraise for inspector's salaries became less justifiable and currently the majority of branches receive considerably more income as grants from the National Society than their token payment to central funds. (Currently our branch pays an annual contribution of £350 and receives an annual grant of around £20,000).

Branch committees have genuine power to affect the way the RSPCA operates in their area—for example if the branches where RSPCA adoption centres in Pets at Home stores are located weren't convinced the scheme was being managed in the best interests of the animals concerned they could veto  it. Of course the other side of this is that it imposes an obligation on the branches to provide enough volunteers for quick and effective home-checking to make it work properly.

Anyone with a genuine concern for animal welfare can become an RSPCA member. Details are at