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It started 18 years ago as Spay Day USA , but The HSUS’s annual campaign to call attention to the importance of spay/neuter has always included participants from around the world. Run in cooperation with The HSUS’s global affiliate, Humane Society International (HSI), the event last year attracted participants from 46 countries. And now, its name will reflect that global scope.
The last Tuesday in February, known in recent years simply as Spay Day, has been rechristened World Spay Day. “It’s truly more an international event now than it ever has been, so the name World Spay Day better reflects what the program actually is,” explains Vicki Stevens, a senior project manager for The HSUS and the event’s coordinator. Set for Feb. 28 this year, World Spay Day will take place during Spay/Neuter Awareness Month. Animal welfare organizations, individuals, and businesses will team up throughout February to hold events promoting spay/ neuter as a way to curb pet overpopulation and prevent animals from being euthanized in shelters. Many of the events offer low-cost spay/neuter surgeries to targeted populations, Stevens says. Participating organizations also hold fundraisers, set up spay/ neuter displays in local libraries, or distribute materials at community gatherings.
The HSUS runs a related photo contest that allows people to post photos of their pets online, then solicit votes at $1 apiece to raise money for an eligible animal welfare organization’s spay/neuter program. The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA) , the veterinary af filiate of The HSUS, is a World Spay Day partner, and HSVMA’s Rural Area Veterinary Services program receives photo-contest money to help spay and neuter animals.
The importance of the cause is beyond question.
“Spay/neuter solves almost all the problems that we have in rescue,” says Judy Cataldo, a volunteer for the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society in Massachusetts, which has held Spay Day events for several years, including last year teaming with the Massachusetts SPCA on a 24-hour spay-a-thon. “People turn in animals because of aggression or because of spraying or wandering or whatever, and it’s like—spay/neuter. Cats get feline leukemia or FIV. Why? Because they weren’t spayed and neutered. It just all keeps coming back to spay/neuter.”
The House Rabbit Connection, a foster program serving central Connecticut and western Massachusetts, took part in its first Spay Day last year, and president Marlene Wilhelm says she hopes to “amp it up a little bit more” this year by holding more events in pet stores (the group did about five last year) and distributing more information about the importance of spay/neuter.
Similarly, Wilhelm want s to pro - mote the photo contest more (including a mention in the group’s newsletter, The Pursuit of Hoppiness) so the House Rabbit Connection can increase its share from a few hundred dollars to more than $1,000. And last year the group worked with Springfield, Mass., mayor Domenic Sarno to pass a Spay Day proclamation. Wilhelm hopes to build on that effort this year with a statewide proclamation from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
Twenty or 30 years ago, Wilhelm recalls, pet rabbits were typically confined to a backyard hutch. Owners today have learned that pet rabbits are intelligent, social animals who belong indoors, she adds, but progress has been slower on convincing owners to spay or neuter. “I see the trend going in the right direction,” Wilhelm says. “I’d like to see it go faster.”
The HSUS helps organizations publicize their events through a website (worldspayday. org), and offers advice through a downloadable event planning guide. Registered participants can also get free posters and handouts; merchandise is available at cost.
Still on the fence about taking part?
“I’d say get involved. I think the public loves it,” says Mary Ellen Zoulas, a veterinarian and medical director for the Seattle Animal Shelter’s Spay and Neuter Clinic. The municipal shelter has taken part in Spay Day since at least 2000, and its events offering free spay/neuter surgeries have created lines that stretched around the block, Zoulas says.
Spay Day events remind the participants that they’re part of a larger community promoting spay/neuter, she notes. “It’s a builder of community—everyone getting together for one unified purpose.”
To learn more about World Spay Day, go to worldspayday.org.