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Why London Dog Home Was Scoffed At

Excellent piece from The Independent on the inaugural London dog home.

When we read about pets today, it's as likely to be privileged, pampered pooches in Gucci carriers as those who have been abandoned or harmed. We are, we are told, a nation of dog lovers. We own about eight million of them in Britain; they're our best friends. It was not always thus. In the 1800s, a dog's life was – for all but the lucky few – nasty, brutish and short. Dogs were liable to be beaten or shot on sight by park keepers and police.

During frequent rabies outbreaks, public fear of stray dogs increased, leaving any slightly wild-looking creature open to stoning in the streets.

Paws for thought: a new arrival at Battersea Dogs Home

If they were in good health, they might be pitted against each other at organised dogfights or used to pull carts around towns, practices which weren't banned until 1835 and 1854 respectively (and then not always very firmly enforced).

But the Victorian era saw public opinion about animals shift, albeit slowly. On a wave of sentimentalism, an appetite grew for touching tales about wagging tails: pamphlets, poems and books about devoted dogs such as Gelert or Greyfriars Bobby became popular, and there was a trend for animal autobiography – novels written in first-person voices by anthropomorphised canines and other creatures. Black Beauty in 1877, and Beautiful Joe in 1893, were two of the most successful.


Worth a look: Advice and tips on dog allergies.

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