Doris Day, who died at age 97 on May 13, may be remembered for her famous song, “Que Será, Será (Whatever Will Be, Will Be).” But as one of the first celebrities to advocate for animals, we should also remember her for making sure that—as far as dogs and cats are concerned—whatever will be, will be a whole lot better.
Day “didn’t just love animals—she was one of the first celebrities to recognize that star power could be used to advocate for change,” noted the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in a tribute to the legendary actress.
From creating what we now call World Spay Day to co-owning the first pet-friendly hotel, here are some of the ways Day helped make the world a better place for animals.
1. Created World Spay Day
In an effort to reduce pet overpopulation, in 1987 Day founded the Doris Day Animal League (DDAL), a nonprofit lobbying organization. In 1995, the DDAL launched Spay Day USA, now known as World Spay Day. Held on the last Tuesday of February every year, this day is an opportunity for shelters and rescue organizations to raise awareness of and support for their spay/neuter programs.
During its first 15 years, the DDAL provided the funding to spay or neuter over 15 million dogs and cats. In 2006, it joined the HSUS. It now operates as a political affiliate of that organization but remains a separate legal entity.
2. Founded Two Other Animal Welfare Charities
Prior to starting the DDAL, Day became a founding member of Actors and Others for Animals in 1971. This nonprofit also helps address the pet overpopulation problem by subsidizing spay and neuter surgeries in Southern California.
Seven years later, the actress launched the Doris Day Pet Foundation (now called the Doris Day Animal Foundation), whose mission has always been to “help animals and the people who love them.” The DDAF provides grants to nonprofits across the country that care for and protect animals. Last year, it donated $1.5 million to support the amendment that banned greyhound racing in Florida.
3. Advocated for Adopting Shelter Pets
In a public service announcement filmed nearly 50 years ago, Day encouraged viewers to visit their local shelters and adopt homeless pets, like the two of hers sitting in her lap.
“Shelters are unbelievably overcrowded,” she says, “and we can and must do something about it.”
4. Shared Photos of Homeless Dogs and Cats
Decades before there was an internet, social media or websites like Petfinder, Day was known as “the dogcatcher of Beverly Hills,” according to the DDAF website.
She always carried photos with her of dogs and cats needing forever homes and shared them with friends and colleagues. If someone expressed interest in adopting one of the pets, Day would personally inspect their home to make sure the pet would be happy there.
5. Opened the First Pet-Friendly Hotel
A visionary when it came to pet-friendly travel, around 1990 Day became co-owner of the historic Cypress Inn in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif. This boutique hotel became the first to welcome four-legged as well as two-legged guests.
Day didn’t just make the world a better place for pets—she also helped make it better for the people who love them.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons