A humane society is a group that aims to stop human or animal suffering due to cruelty or other reasons, although in many countries, it is now used mostly for societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals (SPCAs). In the United Kingdom, it may also be a society that provides a waterways rescue, prevention, and recovery service, or that gives awards for the saving of human life (see: Royal Humane Society).
The first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), based on the British Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), was set up in Victoria in 1871, followed by other SPCAs in Tasmania in 1872, New South Wales in 1873, South Australia in 1875, Queensland in 1883, and Western Australia in 1892, with the other territories following much later.
The SPCAs were given the Royal Warrant in 1923 and became known as the Royal Societies for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals, although they have no formal connection with the RSPCA UK. The national organisation, RSPCA Australia, was formed in 1981 to give a national voice on policy matters and advise the federal government on animal welfare issues.