Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs
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.
I had been down in Philadelphia working on the national veterinary licensing exam,” he tells me. “When I came home, I had a pain in my jaw. The next day, I was on the treadmill, and suddenly it was like someone just shot me through the brain. It was the most intense little pain.” Aspros took a shower and started reading the newspaper, but the words didn’t make any sense. His wife took him to the hospital, where he underwent four brain scans. “The next morning I woke up with no speech and no
Yvette Smith and Tami Shepphird. DAS runs the city’s shelters and handles day-to-day animal control issues, from collecting strays to licensing dogs. Like the Berghsmen of yore, DAS officers have some police powers, but they don’t carry guns and aren’t authorized to use force. Still, Sanchez tells me, the task force wouldn’t work without them. DAS has been around since 1947, and its agents know more about animals than almost anyone in the city. When the cops are unsure if an animal has been
absolute a property as in any inanimate being. . . . The stealing, or forcible abduction, of such property as this, is also felony; for these are things of intrinsic value, serving for the food of man, or else for the uses of husbandry . . . but not so, if they are only kept for pleasure, curiosity, or whim, as dogs, bears, cats, apes, parrots and singing birds; because their value is not intrinsic, but depending only on the caprice of the owner. Blackstone’s book became required reading in
newly minted Center for Animal Law Studies, a national think tank and the world’s largest animal law program, with twenty courses and more than a dozen full-time and visiting faculty. The center also offers the world’s only advanced degree in animal law. If there’s a West Point of animal law, it’s Lewis & Clark. I had come to Portland to meet the cadets. A Meeting of the Minds The day after Joyce Tischler’s pep talk at the Benson Hotel, the Animal Law Conference begins in earnest. Lewis & Clark
About thirty strong, its members are dressed in purple and white, and they’ve unfurled a banner that reads, “Lesbian and Gay Band Association.” They cheer and tap their drumsticks as we pass. I separate from Houliaras and approach a young couple walking Lilly, a brown pit bull in a red sweater. When I enquire about the dog, the woman, Erin, smiles. “We’re accidental pit bull owners,” she says. “We’d been looking for a dog for two years. We kept going back to shelters, but I kept saying, ‘I don’t