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95 Years of Service: The History of the SaskSPCA

95th Anniversary, News

July 3, 2023

The early years in Regina

On March 7, 1928, the Saskatchewan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SaskSPCA) was created by an Act of the provincial legislature. The creation of the Society aimed “to prevent cruelty to dumb animals of all kinds and to inculcate the principles of and the desire for better and more humane treatment of dumb animals.”

Before 1928, the SaskSPCA was active for over a decade in Regina, operating as the Regina SPCA. The focus was primarily on humane education, with lessons taught in Presbyterian Sunday schools. To educate the community, the SaskSPCA also released an instructional manual for the proper care of animals. During this time, animal cruelty investigations were left to the police. In 1922, the (Regina) SPCA members took the first steps to organize a provincial chapter under the Benevolent Society Act. The hope was that a provincial SPCA would further the humane work of the organization.

After its inception, the SaskSPCA remained centralized in Regina for many years. Early members of the SaskSPCA executive included local doctors, lawyers, veterans, and a provincial judge. The SaskSPCA continued to make humane education a priority. An investigator was hired to work four hours daily, and Dr. L.L. Hewitt of Regina was the first official SaskSPCA veterinarian.

The growth of local SPCAs and Humane Societies

In the early years, the SaskSPCA was an umbrella organization for creating local (city) branch humane societies. In the mid-1960s, branches were opened in Moose Jaw, Lloydminster, and Prince Albert.

The SaskSPCA served as the Regina branch until the Regina Society for the Humane Care of Animals was incorporated in 1964, separate from the SaskSPCA. In 1968, the Saskatoon branch was incorporated as an independent organization, the Saskatoon SPCA.

In 1975, the Yorkton branch of the SaskSPCA was established. The Yorkton branch was incorporated as an independent organization approximately three years later, becoming the Yorkton SPCA.

Even after local societies incorporated separately, they could appoint representatives to sit on the SaskSPCA’s board of directors. This process was later revised with local society representatives serving in an advisory capacity to the provincial SaskSPCA board. Today, each local society operates autonomously without representation on the SaskSPCA board of directors. While all organizations are independent, there is ongoing cooperation and communication between the societies as we work to improve animal welfare.

Enforcement of animal cruelty legislation

Beginning in the 1970s, the SaskSPCA handled enforcement of The Animal Protection Act in all areas of the province. We employed skilled Animal Protection Officers to investigate reports of animal cruelty in locations outside the four largest cities of Saskatoon, Regina, Prince Albert, and Moose Jaw. We devoted considerable effort to building a strong and effective enforcement program but were always keenly aware that we could do more to prevent animal cruelty.

In 2014, our Board of Directors decided not to renew our contract with the Ministry of Agriculture to enforce The Animal Protection Act. Enforcement is now handled by a separate organization — Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan (APSS). Our Board felt the time was right to focus on education and other areas where we can significantly impact animal welfare.

Partners in prevention

Having given up our role in enforcement, we can now devote our resources to education and the prevention of animal cruelty.

The SaskSPCA continues to work with APSS, local SPCAs and Humane Societies, rescue groups, veterinarians, industry, government, producers, and pet owners. We all have a role to play in animal welfare. Working collaboratively, we can share ideas and develop workable solutions to ensure that all animals are treated humanely throughout their lives.

A growing and evolving animal welfare organization

Looking to the future, the SaskSPCA continues to develop and introduce new programs while expanding existing ones. We want to make a real and lasting difference for Saskatchewan’s animals.

Through partnerships with provincial organizations such as STOPS to Violence and the Provincial Association of Transition Houses & Services of Saskatchewan (PATHS), the SaskSPCA raises awareness of the complex relationship between interpersonal violence and animal abuse. We have developed ViolenceLink.ca as a resource for those seeking information on the violence link.

In 2016, we announced a new initiative to create a certification and registration program for animal rescue groups operating in the province. This process has evolved, and in January 2022, the Saskatchewan Animal Rescue Standards were submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture for consideration that these standards be referenced in The Animal Protection Regulations. The standards can be viewed online at PetRescueToolkit.ca.

In November 2020, the SaskSPCA launched the Emergency Pet Food Bank to help families during the COVID-19 pandemic. After a year of operation, the program was reviewed, and the decision was made to create a permanent pet food bank program. To date, the SaskSPCA Pet Food Bank has distributed, through our partners, over 68,000 pounds of food in 13 Saskatchewan communities.