On the third Saturday of August every year, animal protection organisations and animal loving individuals come together to raise awareness for pet overpopulation and animal homelessness around the world. International Homeless Animals Day (IHAD) was conceived by the International Society for Animal Rights or ISAR in 1992 in response to the huge, increasing numbers of domesticated animals living in rescue centres and shelters or left to fend for themselves on the streets. ISAR's International Homeless Animals Day observances often include candlelit vigils and fundraising, and these have continuously grown in number, showing just how much all us animal lovers around the world really do care! Cats and dogs depend on their humans for nearly every basic need - from food and water to shelter to vet care to love and affection - there is no doubt our pets really do rely on us. Yet thousands of animals across the UK have no guardian to care for them, let alone a warm, comfortable place to curl up at night and call home. Sadly, many cats and dogs suffer and die on the streets or have to be euthanised for lack of good homes or rescue space. That is why International Homeless Animals Day is so important, and why we think everyone should get involved!
At any given time, there are an estimated 100,000 dogs – and countless cats – without homes in the UK. Life on the streets can be incredibly dangerous for these animals, with road traffic accidents, extreme temperatures and starvation being just a few ways these poor pets can suffer. These animals that live on the streets are often abandoned by the people they once depended on to care for them. People can give up on animals for all kinds of reasons, most commonly it is financial difficulties that lead to people abandoning their pets according to the RSPCA. The second most common reason is that there has been a change in the owners life, such as a new baby or moving house, which leads to the decision to abandon their cat or dog. Open-admission shelters accept every animal in need, caring for them and keeping them safe, warm, fed, and loved. But because there are so many homeless animals and not enough good homes for them all, many have to be euthanised – a procedure that’s fast and painless for animals but heartbreaking for the caring shelter workers who must perform it. About 21 dogs are euthanised in shelters across the UK every single day.
Animal homelessness is a complex crisis, but the solution is simple: adopt animals from shelters or the streets instead of buying them from breeders or pet shops, and prevent unwanted animals from being born by always having your companion animals spayed or neutered. Just one litter of kittens or puppies can quickly lead to hundreds or even thousands of animals if the cycle of un-neutered pets continues. Giving animals as gifts is also a big contributing factor to animal homelessness as people do not think of the lifetime commitment that comes with a new pet and whether the recipient is ready for that commitment. When it comes to adopting, many animals are overlooked simply for their breed or colour. Many people believe Staffordshire Bull Terriers or Rottweilers to be 'aggressive' breeds which means they are less likely to be adopted from a shelter. Blue Cross reported a 65% rise in the number of black cats they took in each year between 2007 and 2013, speculating that the increase was because black cats don’t show up as well in selfies and so less people were willing to adopt them.
So what can we do to help? Organised International Homeless Animal Day activities often include candlelight vigils, adopt-a-thons, spay/neuter clinics, rallies, sponsored dog walks and more. You can donate to the International Society for Animal Rights directly to support the incredible work they do for International Homeless Animals Day and beyond. You could also consider donating to a local animal rescue shelter or charity to help care for animals in need. Fostering animals, volunteering at local shelters, and donating bedding, food, and toys is also a great way to help out. Spreading the word to friends and family about the homeless animals crisis and encouraging them to adopt and spay/neuter their pets is also a brilliant way to help out. You can also take part in ISAR's online virtual candlelit vigil here, or search for events near you here. Let’s celebrate the next International Homeless Animals’ Day by eliminating the very need for it.