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.