International Homeless Animals Day

International Homeless Animals Day - Thursday, August 15, 2024

Animal Awareness Bird Cat Dog Pet

International Homeless Animals Day falls on every third Saturday in August, which will be August 15 this year, and is honored with events and increasing participation every year. The International Society for Animal Rights introduced the day to spread awareness about pet overpopulation and has done meaningful work since, including saving the lives of millions of animals. 

History of International Homeless Animals Day

The histories of animal rights and shelters have long been intertwined. It was in the 1870s that animal protectionists began to see the lives of children and animals as similarly vulnerable and in need of protection, and SPCAs and anti-cruelty laws began to be established. Though animals were defined as property, cruelty was still an offense. 

The 20th century saw increased protection given to housepets such as dogs and cats, while animals that were slaughtered or working animals still received little to no protections. Dogs and cats received even more attention from the social justice movements of the 1960s and 1970s when animal welfare groups like the ASPCA focused heavily on adoption, fostering, and prevention of animal suffering.

These same goals and guiding values remain prominent in animal shelters and animal rights groups today, as people continuously fight for better legal and physical protections for our furry friends. In 1986, the passage of the Georgia Animal Protection Act provided for the licensing of kennels, animal shelters, pet stores, and stables, and was the first legislation to demand a minimum standard of care for the animals housed in these facilities. This was a huge win for animal rights groups. Another provision and act, respectively, that expanded animal rights was the Humane Euthanasia Act of 1990 and the Animal Rights Act of 2000.

Though there is no governmental organization in the United States to oversee animal shelter regulation nationally, there are approximately 5,000 independently-operated animal shelters in the nation. Most of these shelters changed their focus in the 1990s, shifting from being temporary animal repositories to proactively helping control the homeless pet population and promoting pet adoption. Shelters often respond to cat overpopulation with volunteers to conduct TNR programs, in which they trap, neuter, and return cats to where they were found. This greatly reduces both overpopulation and burden on the shelters. 

In 1992, the International Society for Animal Rights conceived International Homeless Animals Day (IHAD), which has only grown in popularity by year. ISAR offers events from dog walks to adopt-a-thons to animal blessings on IHAD, and many volunteers participate. Today, and every day, we can all be a voice for homeless animals, and help mitigate their suffering.

International Homeless Animals Day timeline


The First International Homeless Animals Day

ISAR established the first IHAD in 1992 to spread awareness of the conditions for homeless animals, demand an end to their suffering, and provide a voice for these often forgotten creatures.


Georgia Animal Protection Act

This act, passed in response to the inhumane treatment of animals in an Atlanta pet store chain, established the first minimum standards for conditions in places such as animal shelters.


Animal Welfare Act

This act protects a variety of animals by establishing minimum standards for handling, sale, and transport of creatures. It has been amended many times since it passed, including as recently as 2007 to help put a stop to animal fighting ventures.


Indoor Cats

With the invention of litter boxes in 1947, pet cats could become primarily indoor cats.


The First SPCA

In 1824, the first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was established in England, with the goal of preventing animal abuse. It spread to the U.S. in 1866 and now encompasses many different species.

International Homeless Animals Day FAQs

Are there events in honor of International Homeless Animals Day?

Yes! IHAD puts on many events, including adopt-a-thons, animal blessings, live music, spay/neuter clinics, speeches from local officials, politicians, and veterinarians, candlelight vigils, raffles, and games. Check out ISAR’s website to find an event you can participate in!

When is International Homeless Animals Day observed?

It is observed every third Saturday of August, which falls on August 15, 2020.

Where can I find more information on International Homeless Animals Day?

We love the International Society of Animal Rights’ website, which includes a wealth of information on IHAD, as well as volunteer opportunities within their group.

Are there other National holidays honoring animals?

Yes! January 23 is World Spay Day, January 22 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, February 20 is National Love Your Pet Day, October 16 is National Feral Cat Day – and these are just a few! Check out the National Today website for a full list of pet-related National holidays.

5 Compelling Facts About Animal Homelessness

  1. Big Operation

    It’s estimated that 6.5 million companion animals are brought to U.S. shelters every year, and it’s a pretty even split - 3.2 million cats and 3.3 million dogs.

  2. Spay and Neuter Your Pets

    Only about 10% of animals that are brought into shelters are spayed or neutered. Many animals are killed annually because pets unintentionally reproduce.

  3. Not All Mutts

    An estimated 25% of all dogs that enter local shelters are actually purebreds.

  4. The Lucky 10%

    Sadly, it’s estimated that only 10% of all dogs born will find a forever home. We can change that with awareness, spaying, neutering, and adoption.

  5. No Shortage of Strays

    In the United States, there are 70 million stray animals living on the streets.

How to Observe International Homeless Animals Day

  1. Donate to a shelter

    Shelters these days are more than just an animal drop-off and pick-up. Since the 90s, they’ve played a big role in spaying and neutering homeless animals and pets alike, mitigating dog and cat overpopulation and spreading awareness of homeless animals. And chances are, they could use your support. If you can’t donate financially, donate your time, and volunteer to help some puppies and kittens!

  2. Spay or neuter your pet

    Let’s do some math. A female dog that isn’t spayed can produce 16 puppies in a year. If each of those puppies continues the line, that’s 128 puppies in two years. After 3 years, that’s 512 puppies, and this is why shelters can easily become overpopulated. Ensuring all pets are spayed or neutered is one of IHAD’s most important goals, so do your part and get your furry friend fixed if you haven’t yet.

  3. Adopt or foster.

    With overpopulation often a burden on shelters, volunteering your home and your time by fostering one of their dogs or cats for a few weeks can make a world of difference. You’re preventing needless animal euthanization and suffering - besides that, you’re helping one lucky dog or cat have a much better life than they would have in a shelter. Even if you can’t commit to permanent adoption, fostering is a viable way for many of us to support shelters.

Why International Homeless Animals Day is Important

  1. It raises money for shelters

    Shelters do great work for homeless animals, but they need money for food, supplies, and more space for the strays that they bring in. Posting about International Homeless Animals Day, attending an event, or simply reaching into your own pockets to support the cause goes a long way towards keeping these shelters up and running. In the end, these shelters are on the front lines of the homeless animal epidemic and financial support raised by IHAD is invaluable.

  2. It gives animals a voice

    One of the guiding goals for IHAD is to give homeless animals a voice. Their suffering is so often silent and unseen, so raising awareness to their plight, and just how many lovable creatures experience homelessness every day, is essential.

  3. It celebrates pet adoptions

    There’s no better way to clear out a shelter than adopting. One of the many adoption-centered events for IHAD is the yearly adopt-a-thon, which occurs in many locations. We love the effort they put into placing strays in good homes, and this work makes great strides towards making space in shelters for more strays and mitigating their suffering.

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