World Spay Day

World Spay Day
Volunteer veterinarian Katya Zimina spays a feral cat at an animal shelter in St. Petersburg, Russia. PHOTOGRAPH BY RYAN BELL

If a street dog or cat could read a calendar, they’d circle this date in red: the last Tuesday in February. It’s World Spay Day, when volunteers round up stray animals in an effort to humanely control the feral populations.

The campaign was started in 1995 by the Doris Day Animal Foundation, with the goal of reducing the number of pets euthanized in animal shelters. That year, 17 million unadopted dogs and cats were euthanized in the United State. Thanks in part to World Spay Day, the number is down to 2.7 million.

Globally, dog and cat overpopulation is a real problem. There are 600 million feral cats in the world, and they take an especially heavy toll on bird populations. And there are 300 million stray dogs, which are guilty of spreading diseases, like rabbis, and attacking people. That is why The Humane Society has turned World Spay Day into a global initiative.

World Spay Day 3
Feral cats are revered at the State Hermitage Museum, in St. Petersburg, where they have protected art and antiques against mice for 300 years. PHOTOGRAPH BY RYAN BELL

In Russia, street dogs and cats are a common sight, sometimes even on the Moscow Metro. Feral animals have played an interesting role in Russian society. Drooling street dogs helped Ivan Pavlov win a Nobel Prize. Laika, a street dog from Moscow, was the first living being in space. Feral cats protect the artifacts of the State Hermitage Museum from marauding mice and rats.

But their numbers have grown to the point of becoming a nuisance — especially —> Read More