Today, August 17, marks International Homeless Animals Day – a day dedicated to raising awareness about pet overpopulation.
On the third Saturday of every August since 1992, organisations and individuals around the globe rally together to shed light on this epidemic, in the hope we can work together to reduce the suffering of thousands of animals on the streets.
Candlelight vigils, adopt-a-thons, and microchip clinics all form part of this effort, as well as spay/neuter clinics to prevent animals becoming pregnant and their litter later abandoned.
So why go to all of this effort? Millions of animals worldwide are left to roam the streets each year, either through excessive breeding or abandonment from their owners.
One such puppy, who was bred with the intention to fight pit bulls, was abandoned and left to die on the streets as his mum lay dead next to him. Oscar, a Wadi dog, was only one year old when his breeder dumped him on a deserted beech in Oman with his mum and siblings, after dog fighting was made illegal in the country.
The young puppy was left to roam the streets for a few months and was the only survivor – his mum and siblings all died – leaving him alone to fend for himself, begging for food from passersby.
Although Oscar was given enough scraps for him to survive from some locals, not everyone he met was kind and he was viciously attacked and kicked on several occasions, leaving him with permanent scars.
The puppy also had his head beaten in with rocks, and it’s believed he was even hung up by his neck at one point because of the way he would react when people touched his collar.
Luckily, Oscar’s story is one with a happy ending and he was taken off the streets by a rescue centre in the Middle Eastern country before being brought over to the UK.
Then, when he was two, Leila Moss-Kelly, 33, from Berkshire, adopted him and Oscar found his forever home. Now five, Leila describes the Wadi dog as a ‘loving’ and ‘funny’ part of their family who they wouldn’t be without.
Oscar’s story could have been a much different one, though. Even without the threat of violence, the puppy was exposed to extremely hot temperatures – without food or water – for an extended period of time.
If homeless for much longer, he could have succumbed to the elements like his mum and siblings did, or he might even have been shot by authorities. As reported by Gulf News, authorities have taken to executing stray dogs if they come across them in recent years, often causing a slow and painful death as the bullets used are very small.
Somehow though, the young dog survived – in spite of the fact he couldn’t get any support from his mum who lay dead next to him, something tragically captured on camera.
Speaking to UNILAD, Leila described how Oscar still has a bump on his head from where he was beaten, as well as scars on his nose, legs, and back. Regardless, she describes him as a ‘beautiful’ boy who loves cuddles and isn’t shy of affection.
This doesn’t mean the wadi hasn’t been affected by his time on the streets though, with Leila explaining:
You could tell he’d been through some horrible times. When we first got him, he didn’t like us holding him by his collar – he would tell us this by mouthing our hands gently (a soft bite which doesn’t hurt). We think this was because he was hung up by his neck at some point in Oman.
He would also run away from us in a panic if our feet happened to go near him – for example if we stepped over him – because he thought he’d be kicked again. So we were mindful of his boundaries and made sure we slowly got him used to these things.
In the three years since his adoption, Oscar has gradually got used to Leila and her family holding him by his collar and their feet being near him, and is ‘much more loving’ than when he first arrived home.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for every dog or cat on streets all over the world. In the US alone, there are an estimated 70 million stray cats and dogs roaming the streets – with only around six to eight million of those entering the nation’s 3,500 shelters every year, according to The Humane Society of the United States.
Of the 3 million cats and dogs euthanised across the country each year, 80 per cent (2.4 million) of these are healthy and are only put down because there was no more space for them and they weren’t adopted in time.
This isn’t just a problem in America though; in the UK, there are an estimated 100,000 dogs – and countless cats – without homes. According to PETA, approximately 21 healthy dogs are euthanised in shelters across the country each day, amounting to thousands of needless deaths each year.
Which is where International Homeless Animals Day comes into the equation, offering solutions in the form of neutering and adoption to help raise awareness of the cause, solutions which otherwise may go unnoticed.
Neutering prevents females coming into season, when they may attract unwanted male attention and become pregnant. First and foremost, neutering prevents unwanted litters being born and later abandoned, therefore reducing pet homelessness.
UNILAD spoke with Alice Potter, RSPCA’s companion animal welfare expert, who said the importance of prevention cannot be underestimated – particularly when it comes to reducing the number of animals abandoned in overcrowded shelters.
We really understand firsthand the importance of prevention, and to reduce the number of animals that need to have a second chance. We very much have always strongly advocated for the sorts of preventative measures such as neutering.
This is one of the key ways to reduce the number of unwanted pets – it stops unwanted pregnancies but it also has a number of other benefits for pets as well, which is something we always try to promote to try to encourage pet owners to get their dogs and cats neutered.
Such benefits include preventing the risk of testicular cancer in males and uterus infections and cancers in females, as well as avoiding the mess unspayed female animals can create when they come into season and bleed for up to three weeks at a time.
Alice said that last year, the RSPCA neutered over 51,000 animals but said there are still ‘so many more animals out there that need neutering’. Particularly with regards to cats, Alice explained, with the charity tending to become ‘overrun’ with them throughout the year.
The animal welfare expert went on to say:
Charities across the UK have been struggling for a while with cats, especially in our care. I guess it’s because, unlike dogs, we tend to not have as much control over cats.
People give them outdoor access – which is absolutely fine – but obviously if they’re not neutered then they can go off quite easily and mate or get pregnant.
Alice also pointed out that the RSPCA alone has thousands of pets across England and Wales who would make ‘excellent’ companions.
Urging those considering getting a pet to think about adoption, she said the feeling of rehoming a pet who deserves a second chance is ‘really rewarding’ and also means we have the ability to reduce the number of animals bred deliberately.
By making these changes and ensuring they become second nature to anyone thinking of getting a pet, we can make a huge difference and reduce the number of innocent dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens being put down simply because there is nowhere safe for them to live.
If you want to help end the suffering these animals face each day, you can get involved in the many events being held worldwide today in support of International Homeless Animals Day.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).