Even though J.E. Knight of Ashcroft, B.C., was not on the list of founding members of the BC SPCA he can be credited with initiating its formation by lobbying the government to pass an anti-cruelty bill. When the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act) was passed in 1895, it set in motion the creation of a non-profit society called the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BC SPCA) that was authorized to investigate and enforce complaints of abuse towards animals and to propose new legislation.
A committee of individuals concerned with animal protection was formed to create the BC SPCA bylaws and a constitution. In 1896, the first meeting was held in New Westminster and in 1898 the society held an election for the Board and the BC SPCA Vancouver Branch was founded.
By 1901 there were SPCA branches in New Westminster, Victoria, Vancouver, Vernon, Kamloops, Ashcroft, Okanagan, Kaslo, Nelson, Revelstoke and Rossland. These branches enabled the society to investigate cases of animal cruelty on a larger scale throughout the province. It was not until 1955 that the first shelter was built for the Vancouver Branch.
More branches sprang up around B.C. at the instigation of individuals and communities concerned about animal welfare, and today the BC SPCA has 37 branches throughout the province. Most of these branches operate a local animal shelter while others provide services through satellite adoption centres and foster homes. Branches work with the community to provide services such as cruelty investigations, sheltering and adoption, emergency rescue and treatment, humane education, advocacy, wildlife rehabilitation and a wide range of other programs to help animals.
Throughout the years, the BC SPCA has been instrumental in improving welfare for animals, through advocacy campaigns on issues such as the plucking of chickens while still alive, horse race monitoring, the contamination of waterfowl in oil spills, opposition to the seal hunt, dogs in the back of pick up trucks, the suffering of farm animals in industrial farming, lobbying to establish the Humane Slaughter Act, improvements to transportation of livestock, increased access for pets in rental housing and reforming the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act).
The BC SPCA has also had a significant impact on society's change in attitude towards animals through its school education programs, Summer Camps for Kids, public awareness campaigns, and by lobbying municipal governments to create bylaws for mandatory spaying and neutering, licensing, and other aspects of responsible pet guardianship. All of these factors have played a role in elevating the status of animals in our province.