The Rhode Island SPCA is the third oldest humane society in the United States. In 1870, Henry Bergh, founder of the American SPCA in New York and George T. Angell, founder of the Massachusetts SPCA, were asked to address a committee in Rhode Island to aid in forming a humane society which ultimately became the present day RISPCA. The committee appeared before the State Legislature and directors of the RISPCA were elected. Governor Elisha Dyer invited the body to meet in his office. W. Lloyd Bowers was appointed the first general agent of the newly formed organization.

In 1872, a Ladies’ Auxiliary to the SPCA was formed and 100 women joined. Any lady who had one dollar to spare annually was eligible to become a member. The Society was criticized by many citizens who felt that there were too many poor people to care for first. The Society’s response? “The poor we have always with us. ‘Tis useless to wait until there are no poor.”

On March 12, 1873, the women of the Ladies’ Auxiliary started a new project by going to schools and talking with children about the care and training of pets. This was the beginning of the Rhode Island Humane Education Society, which is still in existence today. Its mission is carried on by the Humane Education Department at the RISPCA.

RISPCA Headquarters in 1929

In 1920, a woman named Sarah E. Gardiner of Newport, whom the Society helped from time to time in removing stray cats, passed away. Her estate, valued at approximately $33,000, was bequeathed to the Society. This made it possible to erect our first headquarters, located at 372 Fountain Street in Providence, Rhode Island.

In 1982, the Society was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to construct a new shelter at our present location at 186 Amaral Street, Riverside, Rhode Island. This was made possible by the generosity of concerned people who believe deeply in our cause to “speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

On July 1, 2002, E.J. Finocchio, D.V.M. became the first veterinarian to head the society in its 140 year history.