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Failed attempts to regulate dogs in the Second World War

2015 April 14
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Dog looking backwards at the Animals in War memorial in London's Park Lane

Dog looking backwards at the Animals in War memorial in London’s Park Lane

I have just finished a further chapter on my book on the cat and dog massacre and the changing animal human relationship during the 1939 – 45 war. Here I have been looking at the attempts of the state to restrict dog ownership. The government was extremely wary of compulsion since this would smack of imitating Nazi behaviour…

The records in the National Archives are illuminating. Civil servants noted that,“Public opinion would be extremely sensitive about any drastic step to reduce the number of dogs”. One civil servant who had lived in Berlin in the 1930s suggested following the “progressive” dog taxation policy of that city, namely, £5 for the first dog, £6 for the second and £12 for the third. But this was rejected: the British were less law abiding than Germans – and would give the second dog to a neighbour… The various suggestions were finally all rejected. The senior civil servant pragmatically concluded that heavy increases in dog tax would “entail a great deal of work and still greater unpopularity and in the end have achieved no real saving.” The Minister concurred: “The steps we take cannot always be logical.. We have to take into account psychological factors.” It would depress public morale: would it assist the war effort? Concurring with the sentiments of a Mass Observation survey of a year before, the politician answered his own question: “I think not”.

3 Responses Post a comment
  1. Emma Tait permalink
    April 20, 2015

    Thanks Hilda. Very interesting. I look forward to reading the book. Emma

  2. Michael Guida permalink
    September 24, 2015

    Hi Hilda – this sounds like a fascinating book.I wonder if you have published anything about the pet cull during WW2 so far as I am keen to cite your work? I’m exploring birdsong during wartime. I have just been looking at Richard Fitter’s brief note about the number of dog licences in Britain before and after the war [the wonderful London’s Natural History, 1945]

    Best and thanks, Mike Guida, University of Sussex

    • Hilda Kean permalink
      September 24, 2015

      Thanks Mike. I have an article due out this month and have published an article in the Home Front book edited by Maggie Andrews. I am so pleased you are looking at the wonderful Fitter book that I have used -amongst other things – for guided walks on animals in London! I will also contact you off site.

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