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CBS News report shows how pervasive confusion is about “local SPCAs” and the ASPCA

Posted on Tuesday, August 03, 2021
beagle and orange tabby both saved by the Richmond SPCA
Absol and Baxter are two pets whose lives have been saved by the Richmond SPCA, a local organization that is not affiliated in any way with the ASPCA.

Yesterday CBS News aired a story about the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) looking at the New York organization’s fundraising. The investigation shown on CBS This Morning brought light to the confusion that is so common, including among the network’s own anchors, as voiced by Gayle King, who acknowledged she’d also shared the mistaken assumption that the ASPCA is an umbrella organization for others around the country with SPCA in their names.

The name “SPCA” is common to hundreds of different organizations all operating independently of one another. Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals were formed in cities across our country, starting with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York City in 1866 and followed a few decades later with our own Richmond SPCA in 1891. People are often surprised to learn that the Richmond SPCA is not connected to the ASPCA, in spite of the ubiquitous nature of the ASPCA’s recognizable advertisements on local TV and websites.

Local canvassing in our area

Starting in 2019, we began to hear of the physical presence of ASPCA fundraisers at local shopping centers. Over many months we heard from people around the Richmond area that they had been approached at local storefronts and shopping centers by representatives of the ASPCA seeking financial support. Those ASPCA canvassers were stationed at the Brook Road Walmart Neighborhood Market in August 2019. Their presence was advertised through a post on Facebook sponsored by the store as an opportunity to learn about “your Richmond ASPCA.” Businesses where the ASPCA sets up tables are clearly as confused as everyone else.

The Facebook post promoted by a local Walmart store in 2019 demonstrates that even the businesses where the ASPCA sets up tables share the confusion.

The wording of that sponsored post reflects a trend that was reported to us by numerous individuals after encountering the ASPCA’s representatives in person. A member of the Richmond SPCA’s own Board of Directors spoke with a canvasser for the ASPCA near her workplace and inquired about the Manhattan-based organization’s work in the local community. The ASPCA’s representative told our board member the ASPCA supports five animal welfare organizations in this area, including the Richmond SPCA. That report was deeply troubling to us because the Richmond SPCA had not received any financial support from the ASPCA since 2016.

Well-informed donors benefit both local and national organizations

The ASPCA operates a shelter and hospital in Manhattan; a behavioral rehabilitation facility in North Carolina; and spay/neuter clinics in Asheville, Los Angeles and Miami. They also deploy response teams to aid in natural disasters, puppy mills, dog fighting investigations and other situations affecting animals around the country. And they do a lot of other fine work that results in lifesaving, too.  We recognize and appreciate the work the ASPCA does in all these areas, but that is not what their representatives have always used as the basis for their fundraising in our local community. Instead, the ASPCA has falsely represented that the ASPCA would deploy the contributions raised locally back into our community. Funds raised by the ASPCA in our community of Central Virginia will most likely be deployed in other parts of the country, and there is nothing wrong with that so long as the ASPCA’s staff and contractors are clear and honest when soliciting contributions in the Central Virginia area.

By making a gift directly to the Richmond SPCA, you can be assured that you are providing essential resources that will be put to work delivering lifesaving care to homeless pets rescued by the Richmond SPCA and providing crucial services to animals and people throughout Central Virginia. By sharing this post, you will ensure that our community is better informed, because well-informed donors benefit both local and national organizations.

Related links

Charity Navigator has given the Richmond SPCA a four-star rating.
Our Fiscal Year 2020 Annual Report provides additional insight into our programs and services.


Tabitha Treloar and Roux (dog)

Tabitha Treloar joined the Richmond SPCA in 2005 as an admissions counselor and has been our director of communications since 2010. She and her husband live in Richmond with four Richmond SPCA alumni – two cats and two dogs.

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