Ecologists sharing information at a 1931 convention in Florence, Italy, were alarmed at the status of endangered species of the world and were compelled to call attention to possible consequences. The scientists chose Oct. 4, the Catholic Feast Day of Italian Patron Saint Francis of Assisi, as an annual date for international focus on the issue. Declared a saint in 1228, Francis is remembered for his love of animals and nature, among other attributes. He taught that man has a responsibility to all creation as stewards of the creation and expressed those thoughts in the Canticle of Creatures.
Since 1931, World Animal Day has expanded in scope and geography. The date has become an occasion for remembering and paying tribute to all animals and the people who love and respect them, bringing together scientists, students, wild and domestic animal welfare organizations, international foundations for world health and others. The designated day is celebrated in different ways in every country, with no regard to nationality, religion, faith or political ideology.
In addition to traditional religious-based Blessing of the Animals ceremonies, school and public education and conservation activities take place on Oct. 4. A press release explains that “These 24 hours are the chance to give back and celebrate animal life in all its shapes and sizes, from mice to elephants, and recognize the positive influence they have on our lives.” Some of the countries which hold annual commemorations are Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Borneo, Cameroon, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, India, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom and the U.S.
The Ian Somerhalder Foundation, which focuses on habitat, energy, and animal issues, reports that “Today about 40% of all species on Earth are threatened with extinction due to habitat destruction, pollution, climate change, invasive species and illegal hunting, poaching and wildlife trade. There are about 3,100 animals classified worldwide as endangered and that number is growing larger every day. It is now more important than ever for people everywhere to take action to protect animals. Some simple steps to take to protect animals are: protect wildlife habitats, pick up litter and participate in beach cleanups, recycle and reduce energy use and minimize the use of herbicides and pesticides.”
The World Animal Day mission statement is to celebrate animal life in all its forms; to celebrate humankind’s relationship with the animal kingdom; to acknowledge the diverse roles that animals play in our lives — from being our companions, supporting and helping us, to bringing a sense of wonder into our lives; and to acknowledge and be thankful for the way in which animals enrich our lives The World Animal Day initiative is to encourage every individual to use this special day to commemorate love and respect for animals by doing something special to highlight their importance in the world. “Increased awareness will lead the way to improved standards of animal welfare throughout the world. It is a wonderful way to unite the animal welfare movement and something everyone can join in whether they are part of an organization, group, or as an individual. Through education we can help create a new culture of respect and sensitivity, to make this world a fairer place for all living creatures.” It is a day to contemplate the web of life and commit to individual responsibility in connection to it on a global scale.
— Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help “Keep Tahoe Kind.” Dawn Armstrong is the executive director.