Free veterinary treatment camp in Pakistan

On October 4, World Animal Day will be celebrating its 10th anniversary. Over the past decade, this holiday has acted as a day to remember all animals and the people who care for them, but its origins go back much further than 2003.

The first World Animal Day took place in Florence, Italy, in 1931 at a convention of ecologists. They chose this specific day to gather together and highlight the plight of endangered species because it is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

It was a little known event until 10 years ago, when Naturewatch launched a World Animal Day initiative to encourage people everywhere to celebrate every species each October.

“We recognized that many people were reaching out for some kind of umbrella to embrace all animals and the unique concerns of each in every country. Combined, they connect to millions of people, but they needed a central platform, which led to the creation of World Animal Day,” says Caroline Barker, Naturewatch’s World Animal Day campaign manager.

Goals and Issues

Naturewatch hopes the holiday will connect animal advocates around the world and unite the animal welfare movements in different countries.

“It's the ideal opportunity for everyone who cares about animals to commemorate their love and respect for animals by doing something special to highlight their importance in the world,” Barker says. “Through increased awareness and education, we can help create a new culture of respect and sensitivity, to make this world a fairer place for all living creatures.”

The day doesn’t focus on one animal or one particular problem, but Barker says that over the past decade, they’ve emphasized the lack of acceptable legislation to protect animals and the issues faced by stray dogs the most.

“The ultimate goal of the World Animal Day initiative is to encourage everybody who cares about animals to use this special day to help make animal welfare issues front-page news around the globe — a vital catalyst for change,” she says.

a World Animal Day event in Panama

Global Events

The number of events commemorating the holiday increases each year, so much so that in 2007, an ambassador initiative was launched to help manage events in different countries.

There are currently 82 World Animal Day ambassadors representing 70 countries. While spreading the word about World Animal Day, these ambassadors also pay attention to the unique local animal concerns in each nation. This means the events occurring in each country differ, and there are multiple ways for people to get involved.

“World Animal Day is celebrated in different ways in every country, with no regard to nationality, religion, faith or political ideology,” Barker says. Both educational and fund-raising events are held; types of events include animal blessing services, shelter open days, sponsored dog walks and cycle rides, free spaying/neutering, educational events to improve the welfare of working animals such as donkeys, educational events for children of all ages to raise awareness of animal welfare issues, animal-related concerts and competitions.

A full list of events is available on the the World Animal Day website. This year in the United States, The Cat Network is holding a Save a Stray, Prevent a Litter Day and offering spay or neuter services at locations throughout Miami, and there will be a march on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro to raise awareness about animals working at circuses.

How You Can Get Involved

Barker encourages people to create their own event for October 4 and register it on the World Animal Day site for people to see and join. She says it doesn’t matter how large or small your event is; all that matters is getting involved.

“Increased awareness will lead the way to improved animal-welfare standards throughout the world — and what an achievement that will be!” says Barker.

Learn more by visiting the World Animal Day website.