Compassion for animals has always been at the core of our organization and it continues to influence our work on behalf of animals. As we enter our 60th year, we are highlighting compassion as our theme and as the motivating force for what we do every day.
It was September 1959 that we were incorporated as a non-profit organization under the Societies Act in Alberta. Until that time, the Northern Alberta SPCA (now known as the Edmonton Humane Society) operated in the Edmonton area.
In the late 1950s, there was pressure on the Alberta Government to enact provincial animal welfare legislation, to both acknowledge farm animals as well as to better protect all animals. From there, the Alberta SPCA was born with a focus on animal welfare issues outside of Edmonton and Calgary. This meant livestock welfare issues could be responded to.
The early days of the Alberta SPCA were lean. Archie Bruce (above) was both the executive director and sole special constable and he served in that role for both the Alberta and Northern Alberta SPCAs. He did not have a work vehicle so he used his own.
In the mid-1960s, pressure intensified on the Alberta Government to create provincial animal welfare legislation. Bruce, along with Alberta SPCA President, Zennon (Zeke) Young, and Lou Hyndman Sr. developed the framework for what would become the Animal Protection Act, which came into effect July 1, 1967. With the legislation came a $10,000 grant to the Alberta SPCA to enforce it, and with that, the Alberta SPCA was able to hire a second constable.
The Alberta SPCA has continued to evolve since those early days. We now have 11 Peace Officer positions, and offices in Edmonton, Okotoks, Innisfail and in northern Alberta.
Our organization was instrumental in pushing for improvements to the Animal Protection Act (APA) in 1986 and in 2006 to meet the growing expectations of Albertans for animal welfare. The Alberta SPCA’s mission to protect, promote and enhance the well-being of animals guides us in pursuit of better outcomes for animals. More recently, Alberta SPCA staff and board members have been advocating to modernize the APA to improve enforceability and to give Peace Officers more tools to better protect animals.
In 1981 we added an education department. It is the longest continuously operating education program in the province, with two full-time teachers with education degrees. Our department works tirelessly to ensure curriculum-related resources are available for teachers to intergrate humane education into classrooms. In 2014 we added the Pet Safekeeping Program, ensuring people fleeing domestic violence situations have somewhere to place their pets so they can enter a safe shelter.
Throughout our 60 years, the Alberta SPCA’s number one focus has always been on the animals. As our staff decide how best to proceed with any situation before us, we always ask one simple question, “what is best for the animal?” Charges may ultimately be laid in some cases, but even if they are not, as long as we have helped the animal, we have done our job.
As we proceed into the next 60 years in our history, it is hard to predict how society will change. What is predictable is the Alberta SPCA’s compassionate approach will continue as we strive to ensure every animal in Alberta be treated humanely.