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Tom Cushing

Tom Cushing works to place stray animals and lawyers into new situations where they may prosper. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Dog's Life: Humane
In Praise of Senior Dogs
The benefits of adopting a more mature companion.
Texas Senior Dog

When I first saw Rooney at the Martinez, Calif., animal shelter, she was dazed, matted and unsteady— obviously on her last legs. Her breath could’ve fueled my car. As a dog rescuer, I kicked myself for agreeing to see her. What possible prospects could I offer this bedraggled old Border Collie, beyond a marginally better demise?

Within two months (and minus several bad teeth), she was adopted—and seven years later, just after her passing, I look back on her as one of my all-time favorite success stories.

Named for her resemblance to “60 Minutes” commentator Andy, she was a grand old gal, full of nobility, life and love. She was gentle with adults and grandkids, she respected cats, and she kept younger dogs in line, even with that half-empty maw. Rooney was quick to settle into a regular routine, and when you patted her she just oozed gratitude and affection. In short, she was the perfect companion for Margie, the empty nester who adopted her. The world would have been poorer if those two hadn’t matched up and devoted themselves to each other.

If you’re approaching your AARP years (or even if you’re far from it), you’ve probably read about the many health benefits of pet ownership. Study after study has shown that blood pressure goes down, cholesterol levels improve and even heart attack risk declines. Companion animals may be the anti-aging medicine that you really should “ask your doctor about.” Having a pet also encourages you to get out and exercise, even if it’s just a gentle daily walk. And statistics don’t count the warmth, companionship and pure love that a mature canine can bring into a household.

Adult dogs are settled into their personalities, so you know what you’re getting more than you would with a puppy or yearling. They are usually house-trained, and may already know basic commands like “sit” and “stay.” Contrary to the old adage, you can teach these dogs new tricks—with adolescence out of their systems, they tend to focus pretty well on teaching moments. Their desire to please their people is very well ingrained.

And I can’t prove it, but I’ve heard it said too many times to discount the notion that adult adoptees are just plain grateful—they’ve seen the world’s harsher side and seem particularly appreciative of the new lease on life they’ve been given.

In recognition of the many mutual benefits of matching older dogs with their human counterparts, many shelters have established “seniors-forseniors” programs. They offer reduced adoption fees to folks older than some threshold age for mature dogs—typically six or more years old.

I recall an older gentleman who was looking over some impossibly cute foster puppies. Asked where he planned to be in ten years, he replied, smiling, “Dirt nap!” With many breed life expectancies in the 12–18 year range (smaller being typically longer-lived), six- or seven-year-old dogs—and even teenagers like Rooney, still have plenty of good “tread-life” on them. My senior friend decided on an eight-year-old Lab mix, and they’ve never looked back. (And I know Margie wouldn’t trade her years with Rooney for anything. She’s since taken in Gloria, another senior grand dame.)

A shelter in Reno recently received a letter from a woman who had adopted a senior dog there some time ago and then returned for another. She wrote: “Frankie’s time with me was very good. He was loving, gentle and a good friend. He would bound out of the house at the end of the day when I returned home from work. He would wiggle with happiness to see me. He would do those “play bows” that sometimes much younger dogs do.

“I want to tell you that I think I needed Frankie more than he needed me, but he loved me and I was grateful for that wonderful creature every day that I had him. My new girl, Willow, is lying at my feet chewing on a rawhide. I hope this makes sense—I heard her snore last night while I was watching television. I can hear her breathe and I am not so alone.

“It is possible that animals are our greatest gifts in this life.”

Sitting here with that story fresh in my mind, where it shares space with fond memories of Rooney, I am gratified to know that these adoptions can hold such meaning and so enrich the lives of all concerned. If you have a hankering for “one more good dog,” please consider adopting an older best friend—it’s one of the biggest win-win opportunities that senior life affords.

Dog's Life: Humane
Running the Numbers
Guest Editorial
UC Davis studies health conditions in Golden Retrievers

We humans are terrific at measuring and recordkeeping— we even know the length of Noah’s ark, in cubits (300) no less. Technology abets this trait, as computers dutifully crunch our numbers, ad, well, infinitum. As a species, however, we are not so good at appraising information to extract its meaning. Confronted with new data, we tend to overemphasize and generalize, often less than critically.

On that cautionary note, what are we dog people to make of a new University of California, Davis, study that examines relationships between early, late or no spay/neuter and several health conditions in Golden Retrievers? How do we apply its conclusions to the animals in our care?

The Davis docs found increased risk of several cancers, hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament tears among sterilized Goldens; the incidence varied according to the sex and age-at-neuter of their subjects. As such, their findings add to a growing library of veterinary literature on the spay/neuter subject. However, the authors are careful to limit their conclusions, as should we.

First, the findings are breed-specific. Goldens, a highly inbred line, were chosen in part because of their susceptibility to cancers and joint issues. The gene pool was further limited by a study sample of dogs (759, to be precise) seen at the UC Davis clinic, in northern California.

Second, we need to remind ourselves that risk is not destiny, and that correlation is not causation. The study notes that the risk of one type of canine cancer quadrupled in late-neutered females, but also reveals that its incidence grew from 1.6 to 7.4 percent— meaning that about 93 percent of the subjects did not contract the disease.

The authors also indicate that they did not specifically consider obesity, another known factor in dysplasia and cancers. Neutered dogs do tend to be heavier, but we can manage that risk by controlling food intake and quality. We also need to recognize that other studies have noted countervailing positive health effects, as spay/neuter reduces or eliminates rates of other common diseases, such as mammary cancers and uterine infections.

Third, context is crucial. These data feed into the universe of things that are harmful to canines. We know, for example, that nationwide, some 50 percent of the animals in shelters don’t survive the experience. To the extent that intact canines contribute litters to the shelter population, that risk dwarfs exposure to accidents or disease. Shelter “save” rates are improving in many places, but we remain far from a no-kill equilibrium. Job One for canine partisans (including the veterinary community) remains the imperative to reduce that carnage.

After sheltering, risk-of-death varies widely by age and breed. A comprehensive University of Georgia study of vet-reported deaths (“Mortality in North American Dogs from 1984 to 2004,” published in 2011) identifies infections, trauma and birth defects as primary culprits in young dogs, with tumor-related diseases at various breed-specific rates, distantly followed by trauma and infections, which dominate the tally for the late-in-lifespan.

Finally, there are the behavioral and other risk implications of fertility, including management of ardent males and bitches in heat.

The Davis study is a significant contribution to our understanding of the unintended consequences of fertility management in a useful and popular breed. Reproductive organs contribute hormones for many reasons—it would be surprising if their removal were completely trivial. Alternatives to traditional spay/neuter do exist, but they are rarely performed. Injectable sterilizers and contraceptives are coming on the market (they, of course, will carry their own measurable side effects).

It’s important to recognize the limitations of the study: one breed, one gene pool, defined conditions and their rank among all the calamities that can befall our best friends. The study itself notes that spay/neuter is uncommon in Europe, which would appear to open up a range of comparative research possibilities and fertility management options.

We should add the Davis work to the burgeoning database. But until a lot more measurements have been taken from which broader conclusions may be drawn, the best advice is not general to all dogs, but individualized: choose your canine companions carefully and love and support them well, and completely. And recognize that we can’t measure or control for everything, yet—or ever.

Dog's Life: Humane
Running the Numbers
Guest Editorial
UC Davis studies health conditions in Golden Retrievers

We humans are terrific at measuring and recordkeeping— we even know the length of Noah’s ark, in cubits (300) no less. Technology abets this trait, as computers dutifully crunch our numbers, ad, well, infinitum. As a species, however, we are not so good at appraising information to extract its meaning. Confronted with new data, we tend to overemphasize and generalize, often less than critically.

On that cautionary note, what are we dog people to make of a new University of California, Davis, study that examines relationships between early, late or no spay/neuter and several health conditions in Golden Retrievers? How do we apply its conclusions to the animals in our care?

The Davis docs found increased risk of several cancers, hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament tears among sterilized Goldens; the incidence varied according to the sex and age-at-neuter of their subjects. As such, their findings add to a growing library of veterinary literature on the spay/neuter subject. However, the authors are careful to limit their conclusions, as should we.

First, the findings are breed-specific. Goldens, a highly inbred line, were chosen in part because of their susceptibility to cancers and joint issues. The gene pool was further limited by a study sample of dogs (759, to be precise) seen at the UC Davis clinic, in northern California.

Second, we need to remind ourselves that risk is not destiny, and that correlation is not causation. The study notes that the risk of one type of canine cancer quadrupled in late-neutered females, but also reveals that its incidence grew from 1.6 to 7.4 percent— meaning that about 93 percent of the subjects did not contract the disease.

The authors also indicate that they did not specifically consider obesity, another known factor in dysplasia and cancers. Neutered dogs do tend to be heavier, but we can manage that risk by controlling food intake and quality. We also need to recognize that other studies have noted countervailing positive health effects, as spay/neuter reduces or eliminates rates of other common diseases, such as mammary cancers and uterine infections.

Third, context is crucial. These data feed into the universe of things that are harmful to canines. We know, for example, that nationwide, some 50 percent of the animals in shelters don’t survive the experience. To the extent that intact canines contribute litters to the shelter population, that risk dwarfs exposure to accidents or disease. Shelter “save” rates are improving in many places, but we remain far from a no-kill equilibrium. Job One for canine partisans (including the veterinary community) remains the imperative to reduce that carnage.

After sheltering, risk-of-death varies widely by age and breed. A comprehensive University of Georgia study of vet-reported deaths (“Mortality in North American Dogs from 1984 to 2004,” published in 2011) identifies infections, trauma and birth defects as primary culprits in young dogs, with tumor-related diseases at various breed-specific rates, distantly followed by trauma and infections, which dominate the tally for the late-in-lifespan.

Finally, there are the behavioral and other risk implications of fertility, including management of ardent males and bitches in heat.

The Davis study is a significant contribution to our understanding of the unintended consequences of fertility management in a useful and popular breed. Reproductive organs contribute hormones for many reasons—it would be surprising if their removal were completely trivial. Alternatives to traditional spay/neuter do exist, but they are rarely performed. Injectable sterilizers and contraceptives are coming on the market (they, of course, will carry their own measurable side effects).

It’s important to recognize the limitations of the study: one breed, one gene pool, defined conditions and their rank among all the calamities that can befall our best friends. The study itself notes that spay/neuter is uncommon in Europe, which would appear to open up a range of comparative research possibilities and fertility management options.

We should add the Davis work to the burgeoning database. But until a lot more measurements have been taken from which broader conclusions may be drawn, the best advice is not general to all dogs, but individualized: choose your canine companions carefully and love and support them well, and completely. And recognize that we can’t measure or control for everything, yet—or ever.

Culture: Reviews
Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America
Almaden Books, 238 pp., 2007; $16.95

In this no-kill manifesto, attorney Nathan Winograd identifies the moment when he believes the budding humane movement lost its way. Overruling the wishes of its founder, Henry Bergh, ASPCA agreed in the late 1800s to operate New York’s cruelly primitive dog pounds. Thus, the organization became accustomed to killing animals, albeit more compassionately than under the city’s brutal regime. Winograd argues that the animal welfare establishment has remained mired in 19th-century thinking and processes, to unnecessarily fatal effect for the five million healthy animals destroyed in US animal “shelters” each year.

He traces the movement’s history, highlighting its failed attempts to legislate, educate and coercively sterilize the nation out of its presumed pet over-population problem. Policies have been founded, he claims, on twin (and false) premises: that there are too many companion animals to be absorbed into proper homes, and that the public can be harangued into more responsible care of its pets. This has led shelters to the hopeless approach of “adopting out a few and killing the rest” of their unlucky tenants, while blaming an indifferent citizenry for their thankless task.

He then describes no-kill successes in San Francisco; Charlottesville, Va.; and Reno, Nev., as well as his own shelter management work in rural Tompkins County, N.Y. Here the book comes alive as he reports life-or-death tales of animals who were spared the needle by the best efforts of shelter personnel applying the logic, tactics and creative hard work of the no-kill paradigm: low-cost spay/neuter, foster and rescue care, medical/behavioral interventions, trap/neuter/release for feral cats, and several species of community outreach. In each case, shelters dramatically reduced their kill rates to under 10 percent of all animals without selective intake or “adoptability” analyses to eliminate problem critters—no smoke, no mirrors. He also explodes the claim of inherent overpopulation, demonstrating that sufficient homes are available if only they can be more effectively linked with needy animals.

Finally, Winograd indicts the humane establishment for seeking to discredit—rather than embrace—these successes. San Francisco was proclaimed too urban (and, remarkably, too “gay”); Tompkins County, too rural and Yankee; Charlottesville, too collegiate, and so on. Institutional interests, he believes, have outweighed their life-saving mission. Indeed, the response of the mainstream organizations to this book will be crucial and instructive. One hopes for a collaboration toward better, 21st-century “best practices.” Eyes on the prize, everyone—our behavior should not embarrass our pets.

The world owes much to those rare individuals who see things differently—and who then devote themselves to vindicating their maverick conclusions. Though Redemption is repetitive, may be over-harsh on no-kill’s detractors, and concentrates more on diagnosis than cure, it’s an important work. The shelter world has shielded most of the public from the grim realities of its operations, and has convinced the rest that change is possible only at the margins. This book is a clarion call to the burgeoning, pet-loving community—readers of The Bark, perhaps—to demand better from its shelters, and to participate in the soulful work of saving lives.

Buy this book

News: Guest Posts
Hayden Bill Repeal Effort—Update
Budget cut could mean shelter animals lose life-saving time

As citizens of the Golden State know, the California budget takes a tortuous route to passage—even in the best of times. These aren’t those times, especially for animal partisans, since Governor Jerry Brown has recommended repeal of the state’s landmark shelter animal protection law, known as the Hayden Bill.

 

Repeal is sought to save a theoretical $23 million in state payments to local shelters, intended to reimburse them for expenses associated with not-killing impounded pets for about six days. That so-called “Hayden-hold” period is crucial to reuniting strays with their families, and mobilizing the state’s burgeoning rescue network to promote the adoption alternative. Hayden was enacted to convert California’s facilities from disposal sites to life-saving shelters in a much truer sense of the term.

 

While success is as-yet incomplete, the state has made remarkable progress in stemming the tragic killing of animals whose worst sins are generally that they chose the wrong people. Shelter pets have even achieved a certain cachet among dog park regulars. Much remains to be done, and Hayden is a critical part of the infrastructure of progress.

 

Repeal would destabilize the system and threaten those gains. Worse—it is utterly unnecessary, as the savings are easily otherwise achievable. The term “theoretical” savings was used above because the State hasn’t actually reimbursed those local expenses since 2009, when repayments were “suspended.” Thus the Hayden-hold has not cost the state as much as a dog biscuit since that time—and it needn’t in fiscal 2012–13, when suspension is again an option.

 

Kindly consider doing two things in support of Hayden:

 

1. The first hearing on this matter of so-called state mandates (reimbursements), including Hayden, is Tuesday, March 13, at 1:30 p.m. at the Capitol in Sacramento, Room 447.

As of this writing, the specific agenda has not been set, but we know who the sub-committee members are. Email them, fax and call them: they need to know the consequences of their actions on this issue, both canine and electoral! (Pols are nearly as famous for family portraits that include Fido as they are for kissing babies. THIS is their opportunity to reimburse Fido for his dedicated service.) You'll find contact information for all subcommittee members in the box below. Note how similar the email and other addresses are—mass-produce and send ‘em onward!

 

2. Attend the Capitol Lawn Rally planned for that day, starting at high noon. The scheudule is as follows:

11:45 - Arrive on North Steps of Capitol
12:00 - Rally/press conference
12:30 - Enter the Capitol and proceed to Room 447
1:30 - Assembly Budget Subcommittee meeting starts

Signs will be provided. Well-behaved, leashed dogs are allowed on Capitol grounds, but not inside the Capitol building, so please keep that in mind for this combination outdoor/indoor event. As always, bring those disposal bags. See updates here.

Dog's Life: Humane
The Real Problem with Anthropomorphism

There’s a knothole in the fence near our front door, right about Collie-eye level. When we come home, our Border Collie, Genghis, is invariably at the knothole, trying to anticipate who’s arriving. (That part’s not surprising— anticipation is what BCs do, after all.) But it’s not his eye to the knothole—it’s his nose.
Scientists have long warned against the imprecision and misimpressions of anthropomorphizing animal subjects—of ascribing human qualities to them. The stated enemy is the assumption that their cognitive processes mirror our own complicated mental analyses, instead of the preferred notion that lower species are purer examples of stimulus/response behaviors. If we were to assume that they’re like us in that regard, objective scientific findings might be muddled by dreaded subjectivity.
Having witnessed a few of the routine indignities visited on animals by scientific research, however, my own (subjective) suspicion is that, as far as science is concerned, the real enemy is the human instinct to care. Whether labeled “sentimentality” or the less pejorative “humanity,” it gets in the way of research. Caring complicates experimental processes with issues like routine maintenance that respects the animals’ nature, and the ultimate fate of the subjects upon conclusion of their work for us. In other words, it costs money. The fact that vet schools have been slow (and late) to even consider ethics curricula suggests to me that anthropomorphism is also a technical term for “inertia.”
That’s bad enough. But there’s another, broader problem that interferes with the relationships all animal keepers have with their companion animals: economists call it “opportunity cost.” That term is related to the implications of the road not taken, or the conclusion drawn too quickly.
Anthropomorphizing leads us off the scent (and over a perceptual cliff) in understanding canine behaviors by imposing the assumption that they perceive the world as we do—that their sensory inputs are limited to the capacities of our dull, sight-oriented biology. Every species probably has its own misguided conceits, and this one robs us of a richer understanding of our canine brethren.
Collies are not the scent champs of the canine world—far from it. But think of what it would mean to have noses 100 times more capable (if objective science is to be believed) than our own! Sight is obviously useful in our Darwinian niche, but it’s also transitory. Scent, by contrast, allows a look back in time at not just what’s happening now, but at what occurred a day, a week or much longer ago. And think how sensual and rich the smell of soup is when each ingredient can be perceived.
Medical researchers are lately beginning to comprehend this factoid in the context of cancer-sniffing dogs, whose noses far outstrip the capabilities of other diagnostic tools. Predictably, they are also sparing no effort to try to improve their mechanical devices to better mimic the canine nostrils’ remarkable sensitivity. Gosh—if only there were a cheap source of canines who might be trained and devoted to that humanitarian task for a decade or more, with few repairs and only low-cost maintenance required.
I listened to a call-in show recently, hosted by a supposed animal expert. A caller inquired about his dog, who sometimes raised his hackles for no apparent reason when they were out for a walk. The expert called it “idiopathic,” a fancy term for irrational, random or unexplainable. Allow me to suggest an alternative explanation: the dog was responding to clear messages from the environment that we lack the wits to comprehend.
We don’t know how Lassie knew that Timmy had fallen down the well at the old Johnson place. But we ought to be grateful, and not dismiss canine behaviors as random or silly. We need to appreciate that anthropomorphism sells them way short—they’re much better than we are at most sensations. We have a lot to learn from dogs, if we only will.

News: Guest Posts
Super Bowl Ads Review: Four Paws Down

Call me a cur-mudgeon, but I think that this year’s Super Bowl commercials featuring canines, well, went to the dogs. They were derivative at best, poorly conceived in the great midsection and downright cruel at their worst.  

The obvious winner was the “Here, We Go” spot for Bud Light, featuring a scruffy little Terrier mix “rescue dog.” He tirelessly fetches beer at a party—by the bottle, the six-pack and even the keg. There was a brief, nonspecific pitch to “Help Rescue Dogs” on a Styrofoam cooler at the end. Thanks for that, Buds, but beer-retrievers-as-men’s-best-friends have been done to death—by Goldens, Border Collies and others. Too bad that this was, by far, the best we got. 

VW weighed-in with a portly pup who is inspired to get in shape, alone, by the image of a passing sedan. When the dog later triumphs by fitting through a formerly too-narrow dog door, the payoff is that he gets to … chase the car??! As I watched him dash, pell-mell after the fleeing auto, I cringed at the prospect of the first cross street. 

What, do you suppose, is the one thing dogs do that gets them killed by cars, most often? The Fahrvergnügen folks need to usetheirnoggins. 

It gets worse. Skechers featured a Bulldog wearing its sneakers—to win a dog race? Granted that there’s some humor in a built-for-comfort breed acting against type, but dog racing is a pastime so inhumane that it’s banned in many states. At least they might’ve included a shoe box touting the good folks at greyhound rescue!

Nothing, however, even approaches the remarkably stupid Doritos dog spot. In it, a brindle Great Dane who has killed and buried the family cat buys his moronic owner’s silence with a bag of corn chips. The even bigger two-legged idiots were the company flacks who chose this ad from hundreds of entries in a contest. 

Was Michael Vick (his possible rehabilitation notwithstanding) unavailable to them?

News: Guest Posts
California’s Governor Proposes Cutting Shelter “Hold” Period in Half
Ignorant, cynical ploy would do real harm

To paraphrase Billy Beane, as played by Brad Pitt in the popular movie Moneyball, “There’s the one percent, and the 99 percent, then there’s fifty feet of crap, and then there’re shelter animals.”

 

That reality is stark in California, where Governor Jerry Brown has proposed gutting the state’s landmark Hayden Bill, a 1998 law that requires at least a six-day ‘hold’ period before impounded animals can be legally killed by shelter personnel. (“Euthanasia” doesn’t fit here—these deaths will have nothing to do with mercy. In this context, that term might better be called “euphemasia.”)

 

World-weary critics (I raise my hand) characterize the bill as a particularly cynical element of the Governor’s ongoing campaign to prod his electorate into raising taxes by November referendum. It would halve the “shelter hold” period, sending thousands of retrievable and adoptable stray pets to certain death. Mr. Brown’s proposal takes his predecessor’s “Terminator” persona from the realm of science fiction to tragic realism.  

 

Hayden’s humane provisions have been copied across the country, and here in California, they are a substantial step in the transformation of the state’s pounds from disposal facilities to shelters true-to- their-name and adoption centers. The six-day hold allows owners to locate and retrieve their animals. It is also crucial to mobilizing the state’s burgeoning “rescue” movement, which pulls strays into private (read: “free”) foster care for eventual adoption. “Save” rates have climbed steadily, especially in populated areas. Finally, most animals can’t be properly evaluated for temperament until they’ve had a chance to settle-in to their confined, chaotic circumstances. Six days is not enough for many—less than that is absurd.

 

The cynicism claim is bolstered by examining the claimed pay-off for this slaughter: $23 million, in a state budget of $137 billion. My calculator and I had difficulty arriving at so small a number as the savings percentage, but it appears to be on the order of 0.00017 percent. And the state hasn’t even been actually spending that money since 2009. So it’s a massive animal sacrifice, without even a proper altar.  

 

Further, the math used to conjure those savings is ignorant of the true economics of sheltering. Killing drugs, and especially carcass disposal, are expensive; pet food is not. Adoption and redemption fees that would be foregone in this mayhem are also a significant income stream—often fully offsetting the direct costs of food and meds.

 

Companion animals and their keepers don’t get much from the legal system. But there are certain minimum decencies that government can and should provide. Hayden should be a source of considerable pride, and legislative deference, as a tangible demonstration of the humane instincts of California’s populace.

 

After outrage comes mobilization. In the next installment: What you can do. Stay tuned!  

Culture: Reviews
Putting the Horse Before Descartes; The Bond
Temple University Press, 304 pp., 2011; $35.00; William Morrow, 448 pp., 2011; $26.99

When dealing with ethics and adults, one cannot teach — one can only remind,” says Professor Bernie Rollin in his new book, Putting the Horse before Descartes. In this book and HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle’s The Bond, two of the most influential “remind-ers” and animal welfare allies recount their battles for reform across the wide frontiers of controversy. Their victories are numerous, groundbreaking and far from complete; their predictions for the future are optimistic. I hope they’re right.

Bernie Rollin has invested his rich academic career building the ethical underpinnings of animal rights and welfare, steering generations of veterinary and other students in the direction of contemplating those issues and pursuing effective public advocacy based on that foundation. Here, he fools us into reading a philosophy tome, with a mix of often hilarious biography, condensed and readable expositions of his approach to animal rights, and (occasionally tedious) later accounts of his battles to improve animal welfare in venues as diverse as veterinary education, shelter practices, research, rodeos and industrial agriculture.

Central to Rollin’s ethical approach is the concept of telos, the fundamental animal nature of each species. Telos, the author states, means that “fish gotta swim; birds gotta fly.” Each species has the right to be treated by humans in ways that respect that essence. Indeed, the true animal husbandry practiced throughout most of agricultural history is an exchange that reflects that imperative; the farmer or rancher was only as good as the condition of his animals.

Decline of the husbandry principle is demonstrated in the recent rise of both factory farming and animal research. Food animals have become fungible commodities of inventory, and as research subjects, critters are means to the end of commercializing products that pass regulatory muster as “safe” (for humans). Rollin’s concern for lab animals deepens when he contemplates the unknown consequences of gene splicing, especially for the splicees.

In The Bond, Pacelle identifies and builds from the instinctive affinity that unites sentient lives across the boundaries of species. He believes that, in the intersection of our lives with those of other beings, we must honor that covenant, reminding readers of the violations that abound in mankind’s power over other animals. Pacelle skillfully describes his organization’s campaigns to redress those abuses: in factory farming, animal fighting, the fur trade and sheltering. Indeed, his ringing endorsement of “no-kill” would almost convince the new reader that HSUS invented the concept.

Both authors have devoted their lives to their missions as advocates and remind-ers. Both see the rise in public concern for animals as pointing the way to a better future. It’s not completely clear to me that it will: Is this trend a harbinger of a more humane age? Or does it simply indicate that we will palliate suffering and respect telos in the most intimate, immediate and convenient of bonds but continue to ignore, tolerate and tacitly enable the greater cruelties visited upon animals we don’t have to see every day? A first step in the direction of change is always transparency. Both these volumes ably raise our awareness, and push us toward lives that will require conscious choices between those contrasting futures.

Culture: Reviews
For the Love of Animals
Henry Holt & Co., 368 pp., 2008; $27.50
Shevelow

As chronicles of human progress, histories can illuminate and inspire— or they may show how little our species has changed across centuries. Literary scholar Kathryn Shevelow has it both ways in her lively recounting of the events and trends that culminated in the first English anti-cruelty law in 1822. Eighteenth-century England really was “hell for horses” and other beasts who had the misfortune to cross paths with its people.Abuses spanned the social spectrum, from bear-baiting enjoyed by the working classes to the fox hunts of the elites—the latter were only more genteel if you happened not to be their object. Children routinely practiced appalling creature cruelties, with apparent impunity.

At work, too, animals fared poorly, from older equines consigned to labor before the crushing weight of overloaded carts—and thence to starvation while penned for slaughter—to canine vivisections routinely performed in the name of science.

Harsh treatment was justified by such disparate arguments as hallowed tradition, the need to develop callow youth into the Empire’s hardened warriors, Cartesian philosophy equating animals with machines and even Scriptures that granted dominion over the animals. Indeed, early Christian leaders, from the apostle Paul to Thomas Aquinas, provided no comfort for the meekest. Even St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals, counseled “respect” for them, but stopped short of compassion.

Further, although animals, as chattel, enjoyed no legal rights regarding their treatment, they could be convicted of crimes and punished in the various fatal fashions of the day. Professor Shevelow describes the particularly grim fate of one Mary Hicks, whose physical affection for her pooch was successfully prosecuted. She was forced to watch him hanged before joining him on the gallows. Such punishments were common enough to define expressions like the rueful “hangdog look.”

But other social forces were at work, portending better days for dumb brutes. Urbanization begat pet-keeping—lap dogs thus gained new status as lovable companions.Advances in taxonomy suggested less separation between humans and other species, and even animal curiosity shows demonstrated to their broad audiences that there was substantially more going on in the animate brain than Descartes believed. Ethicists grafted a “stewardship” obligation onto the biblical “dominion” argument, and reform movements like Abolitionism were philosophical kin to animal advocacy. Finally, there was a dawning recognition that, far from cultivating valor, early animal cruelty more often devolves into serial violence against fellow humans in adulthood.

It remained for brave individuals to seize on these trends to improve the lot of animals in an organized way. Margaret Cavendish, Alexander Pope, Rev.Humphrey Primatt and MP Richard “Humanity Dick” Martin may not be as familiar to readers as Bentham or Gandhi, but they each stood staunchly against the flow of popular opinion, and thereby altered its course. Indeed,Martin championed the first limited anti-cruelty legislation, which passed on its third introduction over a 30-year period. He also co-founded the first SPCA.

So, Homo sapiens clearly made progress in the law and ethics pertaining to other species. But arguments against this groundbreaking legislation may have a familiar ring for contemporary animal advocates. It was variously claimed that Parliament should limit its debates to more important human matters, that bloodsports were traditional and harmless, and that this was a gateway bill to other intrusions on British culture and even diet. There were also serious concerns about enforceability, especially as regards out-of-sight food animals. And it should come as no surprise that the all-too-human SPCA soon bickered itself into factions.

Throughout this saga, Dr. Shrevelow weaves material organized roughly by subject,with specific incidents and other tales of British life of that time, across the bounds of social class. And we get a sense of the heroics and foibles of the tale’s several protagonists, especially Humanity Dick. Anglophiles and fans of history will especially enjoy the book, and those who have accepted some part of the relay pass from these pioneers will be alternately impressed with their pluck, heartened by their success and a bit discouraged that we seem to be fighting similar battles today.

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