Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs
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Cats and dogs were once wild animals. Today, they are family members and surrogate children. A little over a century ago, pets didn’t warrant the meager legal status of property. Now, they have more rights and protections than any other animal in the country. Some say they’re even on the verge of becoming legal persons.
How did we get here—and what happens next?
In this fascinating exploration of the changing status of dogs and cats in society, pet lover and award-winning journalist David Grimm explores the rich and surprising history of our favorite companion animals. He treks the long and often torturous path from their wild origins to their dark days in the middle ages to their current standing as the most valued animals on Earth. As he travels across the country—riding along with Los Angeles detectives as they investigate animal cruelty cases, touring the devastation of New Orleans in search of the orphaned pets of Hurricane Katrina, and coming face-to-face with wolves and feral cats—Grimm reveals the changing social attitudes that have turned pets into family members, and the remarkable laws and court cases that have elevated them to quasi citizens.
The journey to citizenship isn’t a smooth one, however. As Grimm finds, there’s plenty of opposition to the rising status of cats and dogs. From scientists and farmers worried that our affection for pets could spill over to livestock and lab rats to philosophers who say the only way to save society is to wipe cats and dogs from the face of the earth, the battle lines are being drawn. We are entering a new age of pets—one that is fundamentally transforming our relationship with these animals and reshaping the very fabric of society.
For pet lovers or anyone interested in how we decide who gets to be a “person” in today’s world, Citizen Canine is a must read. It is a pet book like no other.
Philadelphia Daily News op-ed titled “We’re All Michael Vick.” Written shortly after the football player pleaded guilty to federal dog-fighting charges, it didn’t mince words. “There is something bizarre about condemning Michael Vick for using dogs in a hideous form of entertainment when 99 percent of us also use animals that are every bit as sentient as dogs in another form of entertainment,” he wrote. “How removed from the screaming crowd around the dog pit is the laughing group around the
would leave in a caravan at dawn and return after dusk, dropping off hundreds of new animals, sick, emaciated, and covered in muck. At one point, more than 2,700 pets were living at Lamar-Dixon. There was no more room in the barns. They sat in cages in parking lots. A week after Charlotte returned to New Orleans, she bought a boat so she could get into the flooded areas. Eighty percent of the city was submerged, with some places as much as twenty feet below water. She’d drive onto an expressway
who bristled at injustice. I have no intention of getting on his bad side. Los Angeles City Hall is filled with marble columns, arched passageways, and intricate, multicolored designs tiled into the floor. Unfortunately, the press conference takes place in a much blander locale, a small, featureless room with gray carpet and a sun-bleached photo of the city’s skyline plastered to the back wall. But what the room lacks in panache, it makes up for in hustle and bustle. Three television cameras
University, for example, found that individuals who abused animals were five times more likely than nonabusers to commit violent crimes against people. And almost every serial killer, from Ted Bundy to Jeffrey Dahmer, started out torturing animals. The HSUS took its information to the people. It ran heartrending ads, raised money, and lobbied law enforcement and legislators. The effort paid off. Before 1986, only four states had felony anticruelty laws. In 1992, one state a year began passing
“You can’t tell what a dog is just by looking at it.” To drive her point home, she puts up a slide she’s fond of showing police officers and lawmakers: two dozen headshots of canines that all resemble pit bulls. Only one is, and every time she shows it, almost everyone gets it wrong. Even the experts have trouble; a recent study found that 87.5 percent of dogs adopted out by shelters were mislabeled, and that more than twenty-five types of canines are commonly mistaken for pit bulls. The American