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« Why bother calling it a ' shelter ' ? | Main | Earthquake in San Francisco... and no, the dogs didn ' t sense it coming »

04 September 2008


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Barbara Saunders

Christie - I found some fantastic scholarship online (and, sadly didn't bookmark it) that offers a theory about this kind of blaming the victim in the pet universe. My attempt to summarize: in the DNA of the movement is a "Victorian strain." In that era, pets were a signal of middle-class status. The very poor had no animals, not even to eat. Those slightly better off had livestock and animals who worked. Animals of leisure could be kept only by people who had disposable income.

By extension, some of this conversation about "responsible" vs. "irresponsible" behavior is code for "middle-class."

In some ways, this prejudice has OK results. For example, banning dog fighting is good whether or not the reason is that, "Dog fighting is not proper behavior."

Evil creeps in, though, in attitudes like, "People who lose their homes obviously are 'irresponsible'." (Look at that whole quotation you included about what people can "afford".) OR "People who can't afford big vet bills shouldn't have pets." (To which I respond, better to rescue an animal from the high-kill pound this year, even if next year you can't pay
for chemo 10 years hence.) It also creeps into those notorious aggressive grillings that happen when people try to adopt pets from certain rescues.


Barbara... great thoughts, and I have to say I agree. One of the things that ended up on the cutting room floor was discussion of the incredible bias against the poor inherent in so much of this discourse, including a lot of dog whistling such as you describe here.

I see it quite a bit in the whole pit bull debate too.

THANKS for your comment!

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