The Society of Phi Zeta was first convened in 1925 by a group of senior veterinary students at the New York State Veterinary College at Cornell University. With the assistance of faculty, the group was formally organized and the then Dean of the College, Dr. Veranus A. Moore, was elected as the first president.

Four years later, in 1929, the Society of Phi Zeta was ratified on a national level at a meeting in Detroit, Michigan, and Dean Moore became the first President of the national organization.

In the same year, a charter was granted to the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Beta Chapter of Phi Zeta was officially established. Shortly thereafter, in 1931, the Executive Committee approved a second petition of a group from Iowa State College, and the Gamma Chapter was established. Since then twenty-six chapters have been chartered, bringing the total number of chapters to twenty-nine. Kansas State University was the 18th chapter (Sigma Chapter), created in 1969. Chapters of the Society of Phi Zeta may be formed at any recognized veterinary medial college, or at any other institution of higher learning that promotes scholarship and research pertaining to the welfare and health of animals.

Naming and symbols

The original organizers of the Society of Phi Zeta, when seeking a suitable name, sought the advice of a learned Greek scholar, Professor George P. Bristol of Cornell University. Professor Bristol suggested a Greek word, which in the Latin form is spelled PHILOZOI and means "love for animals." The abbreviation of Phi Zeta was adopted as the name of the society.

The Society’s emblem consists of a pendant formed by the letter Phi superimposed by the letter Zeta. The design was the work of the great naturalist and artist, Louis Agassiz Fuertes.