Could You Cull a Pet


As an animal lover I found this article friko head, croppedom the BBC News shocking and painful. I had mentioned in an earlier post about British Farms that during WWII much of their livestock was culled because they couldn’t afford to feed such big animals.

What I didn’t know until now is that the government began a campaign before the start of the war urging people to destroy their pets because food was certain to be scarce. In the course of one week, Britain destroyed 750,000 pets.

I know Britain suffered greatly during WWII. Rationing barely kept body and soul alive. A very good friend of mine lived during the war and she often told me about the shortages they endured. She never mentioned the government had urged them to destroy their pets.

She was obsessive about her dogs in her adult years and now I wonder if that cull had anything to do with it. We worked at the same veterinary hospital.

I can’t put myself in their place because we deliberately created a situation where we could provide for ourselves and our pets. If the government started urging me to destroy Nana and Iko, they better hope they never tell me that in person.

There is very little I get worked up about, but when it comes to my dogs, that’s where the line is drawn.

In the US, we eat too much anyway. I can afford to eat a lot less if it means my dogs get to live.

I do want to give kudos to the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, in operation since 1860. According to the article, with only four people on staff, they took in 175,000 dogs during the course of WWII.

I have no right to judge, never having experienced that kind of shortage of resources. I just know I would not, and could not comply to such a request. I have the luxury of living in the country and growing my own food. As long as Greg or I draw breath, our animals will be safe.

To be fair, I’m a little more suspect of the government for starting such a panic. Back then though, people were much more willing to do as they were told. Today we question everything, and we should. If history has taught me anything, it’s that governments are not infallible. They make mistakes and sometimes they’re whoppers.

How would you feel if the government warned you today that food would be scarce for the unforeseeable future and urged you to euthanize your pets?  How awful would life have to be to make such an painful decision?


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  1. It’s a terrifying thought. The cat is our ‘luxury’ pet, essentially – we have her because we like cats. But she is also 15 now, and while I’m hopeful she’ll live to 20, I know nothing is guaranteed anymore at her age.

    The dog, while I love him dearly, is also functional. We don’t live in the best part of town, and he earned his keep when he was a year old helping protect us & the chickens from the hungry stray dogs that kept invaded the yard for three days. So no matter what, he stays.

    Ideally, I want to feed him a ‘raw’ diet, but I have to be able to sustain his diet either way. And I try not to get too attached to the squirrels (we’ve only got three regulars in my part of the neighborhood), because I don’t want to train any hunting instincts completely out of Bear.

  2. Rebekah: The majority of pets are probably luxuries, but I agree with you about protection.

    Many times the dogs will see or hear something before we do. The last time I ignored Iko’s warning bark, I got stung by a scorpion and paid for it dearly.

    Both dogs have warned me about snakes, coyotes, and those dangerous deer, not to mention very ‘quiet’ and uninvited drop ins.

  3. You are right, it was a different time back then during WW2 and I’m sure the government was trying to make a “good” decision based on what they saw and knew. You wonder if they ever regretted it (of course they wouldn’t admit that they did.)

    When we had our dog, we considered what would happen if food became scarce. We tried to have an emergency package of food for him too like we had for ourselves. We knew that we could drink other fluids like soda, juices, etc., but that he could only drink water so we made sure we had a few extra 24 packs of water dedicated to him only (we figured how many we wanted to have around and made sure that included extra for him).

    We are debating about getting another dog and if we do, we’ll make sure they are taken care of as best we can with what we have to work with should disaster or emergency strike.


  4. Our dogs are members of the family. They might as well ask me to cull my guy; it’s never happening.

    We’ve been through shortages one time, back in 2004. We had to live without power or running water for 21 days while being hit by almost continuous hurricanes, and we did run low on food for our furry family (I had enough for two weeks, but because the roads were blocked by fallen trees that wasn’t enough.) I put them on smaller rations at first, supplemented with scraps from our meals. Then when I ran out completely I fed the cats canned tuna and the dogs scraps from our meals and a combo of oatmeal, rice and meat broth that I cooked on our gas grill. I now keep a month’s supply of pet food in reserve during hurricane season. You should also know what human foods are safe for your pets in the event of just such an emergency.

    • Lynn: I knew there was a reason I liked you! 🙂

      We were lucky when Hurricane Rita struck. I was already living in north Texas. When we realized it was going to be a big one, we met in the middle of the 300 mile trip. He loaded me down with dogs and other valuables. He then returned to the coast because he was on the Emergency Response Team.

      What you said about knowing what food is safe for pets is important too. You don’t want to compound one disaster with another.

      One thing I remember about the hurricane is that many people abandoned their pets. The poor creatures wandered the streets. Greg was feeding every stray that came into the yard. By the second day, they must’ve told all their friends because he had a steady stream of visitors.

      • We’re birds of a feather, girl.

        We got caught on the road by Hurricane Andrew way back in ’92, and had to divert our vacation from the Florida West Coast before the storm hit. We ended up in Daytona, but fortunately we’d left our house in south Florida prepped for storm weather. My son was only a month old so I was a bit freaked out.

        I was shocked by how many people in Central Florida didn’t prepare for hurricane season when we were hit in 2004. My neighbors didn’t know how to do the most basic things, like cooking their defrosted food on a grill or getting toilets to flush without running water. We let everyone bring buckets and use our pool water for the latter, but we had to explain the process (and in one case, demonstrate it.) We also ended up sharing our gas grill, drinking water and food with some neighbors who hadn’t filled any containers or invested in non-perishables.

        • Lynn: I’m surprised so many people weren’t prepared. Florida gets hit with more dangerous storms than we do.

          After our bad hurricane, I came back with a portable grill. Greg’s grill had Gone With the Wind. 😀

          The one thing I remember about that episode is that we got really tired of eating cold food. The grill was a welcome addition. Once the grocery stores reopened, we were able to buy a little meat, but it was many weeks before we saw vegetables.

      • Joyia Federigo

        Maria: I’ve been caught in a few hurricanes along the coast of New Jersey, I did not have a pet at this time. The National Guard was picking us up along with all the dogs we came across. All big dogs, not small ones. However, I am thinking as you post this what I would have done with a dog trying to get away from the ocean during that “Perfect Storm” in the movies, with cold ocean water to my chest and 90 mile an hour winds blowing us over. A soaked coat weighed me down to keep treading across the flooded street to the nearest home to let us in. Where we where boarding up doors with mattresses in desperation watching the flood cover the roofs of the cars outside. How would I have been able to save my dog too? Which of us would have made it? Or is it better to leave them to find a safe place? My heart would be breaking to leave them and I was desperately trying to survive and get a sick friend with me to safety.

        • Joyia: Part of the responsibility of pet ownership and even animal husbandry (if you have farm animals) is that you have backups in place.

          With us, during the hurricane, we ferried the dogs a day ahead of the storm. It was cutting it close but we were prepared with other backups in case we didn’t reach our first destination. The dogs will always be our first concern because they have no choice but to depend on us. Everything else is secondary.

          With our farm animals, we have to prepare for sudden freezes. They don’t happen often but when they do it’s all hands to the deck. That means carrying warm water several times a day to the stock, and covering the smaller animal pens with extra hay or blankets. Anything to get them through the icy blasts. It’s miserable for man and beast alike, but that’s what you have to do.

  5. JackieBCentralTexas

    Maria without any doubt culling a pet is a resounding NO! Our furry four-legged “children” have always been spoiled and no shortage of rations on the part of humans makes them deserve euthanization. Terminal illness or horrific accident resulting in their total disability are the only two legitimate reasons I would agree to it.

    However with my physical capabilities becoming more limited, seems like every few weeks, the cat we have now will be our for sure last pet.

    It breaks my heart thinking ahead when the time comes there will be no soft furry body to pet, no little cat voice talking to me wanting affection or food, and most importantly no ball of fluff for my husband to pick up and talk to in his “baby voice” which she loves or hates depending on time of day.

    Right now as much as possible we keep her extra bag or so of prescribed cat kibble “just in case” and not doing too great on the water but that is something we can work on.

    • Jackie: I remember when my neighbors’ dog died. They were bereft because they knew they were too old to start with another dog.

      We remedied that by letting them babysit Isis, our rottweiler puppy. They spoiled her like crazy. When we would pick her up after our shift at work, that puppy was dog-tired from all the playing.

      Once she was old enough to stay alone, she stayed home, but she’d go over and visit them every chance she got. Even after my neighbor developed Alzheimer’s and had to live in a home, she sometimes forgot my name, but she never forgot Isis.

      We didn’t have the heart to tell her our baby had passed away from old age. Whenever we visited her the first words out of her mouth was: How’s Isis? In her mind, Isis was always alive.

  6. “How awful would life have to be to make such an painful decision?” In the siege of Paris they ate their pets and then started on the rats. Humans will do anything to survive – or make money. Just read an article today about a suggestion in Australia that their ‘wild’ dogs should be sold to China for food. One day we’ll eat insects. At least we don’t keep them as pets.

    • Mike: I was glad you chimed in. I knew you’d have a historical take on this.

      It didn’t mention it in the article but I noticed the weapon they used to “humanely” put down animals was a bolt gun. It would not have surprised me if they took the dead animals off the owners’ hands and then used the pet for meat.

      I’m not saying it would be easy, but I wouldn’t give up without a fight.

  7. I can’t imagine having to face that kind of decision. I do know that we turned down a chance to live in England when Stan was on active duty because we’d have to put our Muffin in quarantine for something like six months before they’re let her into the country.

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