World Animal Day is an international day celebrated on October 4 every year for promoting the rights of animals and to improve their welfare standards around the world. Various events such as awareness and educational events, shelter open days and pet adoption events, animal blessing services, conferences and workshops, are organised around the world by animal welfare organisations, community groups, businesses and individuals.
It was ideated by German writer and publisher Heinrich Zimmermann who organised the first World Animal Day on March 24, 1925, in Berlin, Germany. The reason behind organising it on March 24 was the unavailability of the Sport Palace of Berlin on the planned date. Later in 1929, it was moved to October 4 for the first time as it was originally planned. Initially, it was observed in a handful of countries including Germany, Austria and Switzerland but Zimmermann worked tirelessly to promote it globally.
Zimmermann’s proposal to make October 4 as a universal date for World Animal Day was accepted by a congress of the world’s animal protection organisations in Italy. Zimmermann, an animal protection activist, organised movements for the prevention of cruelty to animals. He used the magazine Mensch und Hund/Man and Dog, of which he was the publisher, to promote the welfare of animals under the general public and established a World Animal Day Committee.
October 4 is the day of Francis of Assisi, a town in central Italy, the patron saint of ecology including animals and that’s why the date was chosen as the World Animal Day. Legend has it that Saint Francis was able to talk to animals, as it has been depicted in several paintings. He breathed his last on October 4 and the day became his patron saints day. There is a misconception that World Animal Day was adopted at a meeting of ecologists and that it was intended to highlight the plight of endangered species.