Dogs, dominos and Dickens

Dog playing dominos

Dog playing dominos from Dog Breaking by WN Hutchinson (1850)

One of our recent tweets  featured an illustration of a dog playing dominos.

This was taken from  Dog breaking: the most expeditious, certain, and easy method: whether great excellence or only mediocrity is required by Lieutenant Colonel W.N Hutchinson, (John Murray 1850.) The image shows a dog playing dominos with its owner Monsieur Leonard surrounded by a crowd of onlookers.

In the Historical Collection we have another image of a dog playing dominos, this time on a plate which was generously donated by Norman Comben in September 2011, the inscription reads: “Chien Munito gagnant son maitre aux dominoes.”

Plate showing Munito playing dominos

Plate showing Munito playing dominos

Munito, known as the ‘Learned Dog’, was first shown by Signor Castelli in London in 1817 before touring in Europe. As well as playing dominos he excelled at picking out playing cards and performing arithmetic.

It would appear that his performances were unforgettable.  In All the year round 26 January 1867 Charles Dickens writes:

“About 45 years ago, a learned dog was exhibited in Piccadilly –  Munito … He performed many curious feats, answering questions, telling the hour of the day … picking out any cards called for from a pack on the ground.”

Puzzling over how these feats could be explained Dickens returned a second time and discovered the secret.

“We watched more narrowly … noticed that between each feat the master gave the dog some small bits … of food, and that there was a faint smell of aniseed from that corner of the room.”

Dickens believed that as the owner set out the cards, he pressed his thumb on the chosen card impregnating it with the scent of aniseed which Munito had been trained to recognise.  He confronted Signor Castelli after the show, when all the audience had left, with this explanation.  Signor Castelli ‘did not deny the discovery.’

Munito also appears in Dick Sand by Jules Verne (published 1878) where the explanation of the feats is based on Munito being trained to respond to sound rather than  smell.

Whatever the explanation for these ‘tricks’ Hutchinson sums it up rather neatly “It is hard to imagine what it would be impossible to teach a dog, did the attainment of the required accomplishment sufficiently recompense the instructor’s trouble.”

Pet keeping: a brief history

Picture from 'Illustrated Book of the Dog', by Vero Shaw (1890)

Illustrated Book of the Dog, by Vero Shaw (1890)

National Pet Month (7 April – 7 May) is now drawing to a close but one of the enduring messages of the initiative is the benefits of pets for people, and vice versa.   What we need from our companion animals has changed over the centuries, dogs are no longer solely hunting partners, and cats are more than ‘rat catchers’.  We offer our pets shelter and food in exchange for companionship.  A bond based on similar mutual benefits was the foundation of the first human-animal relationships.

The earliest domesticated animal was almost certainly the dog, with the West Asians and Egyptians taming their native wolves.  Rock art in Western Iran places the domestication of the wolf some 12,000 years ago.  Wolf cubs might have been tamed with raw meat or drawn to settlement’s discarded food; they were then trained to as guards, herders and hunters.

Evidence of feline domesticity was found in Khirokita, Cypress where human remains have been found buried alongside cats, dated to around 9000 years ago.  It is thought that Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians kept cats to kill the vermin that would invade grain stores.

In Britain, animal care was rudimentary until the Romans invaded in AD 43.  Along with superior technology, the Romans also brought better health care to our shores, and with that our first form of pet care.   External surgery, wound care, even spaying and castration were practiced.

Dogs and cats were our very first pets but over time other animals have been domesticated.   In the 19th century animal fancying emerged as a hobby which led to all sorts of animals, from chinchillas, to rabbits to birds, being kept as pets, bred and entered into shows.

Over the coming months we will bring you more on the history of the domesticated animal – you can look forward to pieces on rabbit keeping and breeding, bird fancying and more on man’s best friend, the dog

If you would like to read a more in depth history of pet care as carried out by veterinary surgeons, check out ‘A short history of British small animal practice’,by Bruce V. Jones, in Veterinary History, Vol. 15(2), 2010.

The many layers of the dog

There has been a lot of discussion of anatomical illustrations recently following the opening of the exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery Leonardo da Vinci anatomist.  We have a number of stunning anatomical illustrations in the Historical Collection – the most well known would be in Stubbs’ The anatomy of the horse and then there are those in Carlo Ruini’s Anatomia del cavallo, infermita, et suoi rimedii and Andrew Snape’s Anatomy of an horse.

Although I admire these works my favourite anatomical items are the books of models that we have.  Turn the page and lift the flaps to see what lies behind – it is like being a child again.

We have two complete series of these ‘flap books’:  Vinton’s livestock models – which includes the pig, the sheep, the bull, the cow, the horse, and the mare and foal and Philips’ anatomical and technical models, series 2.

This second set by Philips covers domestic animals.  Again we find the horse, the ox, the sheep and the pig but interestingly we also find the dog. Why interestingly? Well these books were produced in the 1890s, a time when the practice of keeping a dog as a companion animal was not common.Cover of The Dog: its external and internal organisation

The dog: its external and internal organisation: an illustrated representation and brief description was edited by Alexander Constant Piesse MRCVS who graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 1885 and the anatomical description is by William S Furneaux.

It starts with a 28 page text which gives the general characteristics of dogs, then divides dogs into two types – non-sporting and sporting and gives the characteristics of the main breeds.  This section is illustrated with some rather nice images.

There then follows “a detailed account of the anatomy of the body of the dog; [which] will be illustrated by means of a folding model of the St Bernard”.  The various ‘layers’ are then discussed – starting with the exterior, the skin, and ending with the genital organs.

Finally, there is an explanation of the folding plates with each section numbered to correspond to the model. So we have: Head  – (1) Nose (2) Crest of nose (3) Mouth and upper lip etc

There are 5 folding plates in all – and you lift the flap to reveal the next ‘layer’. The inner ‘layers’ are a mass of flaps – so much so that instructions are given as to how to open them “No 13 [left lung] may be turned upward and 18 [left ventricle] to the left …the interior of the hear them become[s] visible”.

The Dog: its external and internal organisation. Plate 5 the internal organs

Plate 5 showing the internal organs

Please get in touch if you want to visit and explore the layers of the dog – or horse or pig ….

Diamond Dogs: The Queen’s Corgis

This Sunday, we will be watching, with baited breath, to see if the Queen takes her corgis aboard the Royal Barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee with her.  Well, perhaps not, but in Britain the Pembroke Welsh corgi immediately evokes images of Queen Elizabeth II, walking her adored pets through the grounds of Balmoral or posing for portraits with a short-legged beast by her side.

According to Welsh folklore, corgis were the mount of choice of the fairy folk, when going into battle.  According to experts however, corgis probably have their origins in Scandinavia and were later used by Welsh farmers as cattle drovers.  The ubiquitous royal dog is undoubtedly an ancient, although not particularly majestic looking breed, steeped in folklore.

Her Majesty’s love of corgis was inherited from her father, King George VI, who introduced the breed into the Royal Family in 1933.  A corgi named Dookie was bought from local kennels and quickly became a favourite playmate of the royal children.  For her 18th birthday the Queen received a corgi named Susan, from which she bred a number of dogs.  The corgis that currently grace Buckingham Palace are called Monty, Willow and Holly.  Her Majesty also keeps several ‘dorgis’, a corgi/dachshund cross, named Cider, Candy and Vulcan. Princess Margaret’s dachshund, Pipkin, is the sire of most of the Queen’s dorgis.

The corgi’s exact breed history is not traceable.  Welsh legend tells of a hardworking farming community, who struggled to tend their cattle and make their cheeses. A pair of children tending to the cattle came across two puppies under a tree, almost identical to foxes.  The brought them home with them and were told that they were dogs, gifted to them by the fairies.  As these strange puppies grew, they helped the community herd cattle, guard their homestead and kill vermin.  Experts think that the corgi bares a similarity to several Scandinavian breeds, most notably the Swedish Vallhund.  The Pembrokeshire corgi was officially recognized by the Kennel Club in 1934 but could have arrived in Wales as early as the 10-12th century.

You can read more about the Queen’s love for animals, of all shapes and sizes, on the website of the British Monarch. For more details on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee festivities, please visit the official website.

Changing times

The editorial in the issue of The Veterinary Record published 100 years ago today was titled  ‘Some changes in our profession’.  In it the author links the noticeable decline in equine veterinary work to the development of ‘motor traction’ but also notes that:

“new channels of work are opening up to us in compensation…The two chief substitutes are canine and feline practice and preventive medicine.”

The editorial then describes the ‘immense’ expansion of work with dogs and cats in the last thirty years, how almost every practice now treats these animals and how the knowledge of canine and feline  diseases and treatments  has grown.

Looking at the statistics on horse ownership in the decade prior to 1912 we can see just how much impact the growth in motorised transportation had.  In 1904 there was an estimated 145,000 horses in London, many of which were owned by the London General Omnibus Company for use in its fleet of horse drawn buses.  By 1911 the LGOC was selling off horses at a rate of 100 a week and ran its last horse bus in September of that year.

Given that scale of change it was inevitable that veterinary surgeons had to look for other sources of income and the increase in the keeping of dogs, in particular, as companion animals offered one such opportunity.  However the interest in the care of small animals began 50 or so years earlier and  had been increasingly reflected in the literature from the mid 1800s.

Frontispiece from Mayhew's Dogs: their management

Frontispiece from Mayhew’s Dogs: their management

In 1847 Edward Mayhew wrote two articles in The Veterinarian relating to dogs and cats, then in the following year in an article he disclosed that canine work formed the bulk of his practice.  His book Dogs: their management, published in 1854, could perhaps be seen as the start of a new focus for the profession.

Further books followed eg John Woodroffe Hill’s The management and diseases of the dog (1878) and John Henry Steel’s A treatise on the diseases of the dog (1888).  The first specific text on small animal surgery was Frederick Hobday’s Canine and feline surgery (1900).

These changes were also reflected in the subjects of theses submitted for the award of RCVS Fellowship – from 1893-1911 there were 5 theses on small animals topics, between 1912-1931 the number almost trebled.

Moving forward nearly a 100 years statistics in the 2010 RCVS Survey of the veterinary profession show that 72% of the time of veterinary surgeons working in clinical practice is spent working with small animals.

 So the  1912 editorial was correct in its prediction that small animal practice would continue to increase and in its confident assertion that:

“we have become of real use to a section of the community very much larger than the horse-owning one and shall continue to be so.”

A troubled artist: Sir Edwin Landseer

The RCVS headquarters tidy-up has revealed another gem, and led us to discover the fascinating story of a troubled man. Eight large prints of paintings by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer (1802-1873), depicting animals and bucolic scenes, have been discovered.

Landseer (1802-1873), an English painter, was renowned for his paintings of horses and dogs. Included in his artistic achievements are the lion sculptures in Trafalgar Square. His dog paintings of the 1830’s are by far his most popular work, ‘Dignity and Impudence’ (1839) being the most famous of all.

Edwin Landseers 'Dignity and impudence' 1839

Dignity and Impudence (1839)

The two dogs in the life sized ‘portrait’ belonged to Jacob Bell, a chemist, who commissioned the work. The bloodhound is called Grafton and the West Highland terrier is named Scratch. Landseer cleverly parodies the Dutch portraiture style, where the subject is framed by either a window or a door, with a hand hanging over the edge. According to the Tate’s summary of Landseer’s painting, Grafton was quite the bohemian and was a visitor at several artists’ studios in London but Scratch was Bell’s favourite of the two dogs. Apparently, Bell made a bet with the owner of a poodle that his West Highland terrier was the better looking of the two. Landseer was to be the judge, he took one look at Scratch and announced, without any prompting, ‘Oh what a beauty!’

Bell and Landseer’s lifelong friendship was founded on a mutual love of animals. Eventually Landseer came to rely on Bell as a business advisor, being ill equipped to deal with every day business matters. Along with Landseer’s brother James, Bell oversaw the commission and sale of his portraits, securing the very best prices. He took on rather more duties than a normal business manager might, as he was heavily involved in the rebuilding of Landseer’s home and helped him to purchase land.

Landseer was the youngest son of an engraver and initially developed his talents with his father. He was later sent, along with his two brothers, to study under Benjamin Robert Haydon, the historical painter, in 1815. It was Haydon who encouraged Landseer to study animal anatomy. His early paintings benefit from his excellent anatomical knowledge and portray a variety of moral messages which contributed to his popularity with his Victorian audience. His later work was marred by his sentimentality and the humanization of his animal subjects.

Landseer had social as well as professional success; his friends included Dickens and Thackeray. He moved freely in aristocratic circles and enjoyed royal patronage in the 1840s.  A favourite painter of Queen Victoria’s, she described Landseer as being ‘very good looking although rather short’. Landseer visited Balmoral in 1850 to paint a portrait of the royal family. The painting was never finished, and the failure of his first royal commission greatly contributed to his deteriorating mental health.

In 1840, Landseer suffered a severe mental breakdown, thought to be triggered by the Duchess of Bedford’s refusal of his marriage proposal (Incidentally, the Duchess was the originator of the very British concept of ‘afternoon tea’!). For the rest of Landseer’s life he was plagued by severe bouts of depression, exacerbated by his alcohol and drug use. His family had him declared insane in July 1872. Landseer died a year later on 1 October, 1873. The country mourned the loss greatly, shops and houses lowered their blinds, flags were hung at half mast and crowds lined the street to watch his funeral procession.

See our full collection of Edwin Landseer’s prints on our Facebook page.

Celebrating National Pet Month – a selection of open access resources on small animal medicine

dogandcat2_220widthThis year National Pet Month runs from 1 April- 6 May.  As their web site says they are on a mission to:

  • help promote responsible pet ownership across the UK
  • highlight the important work of pet care professionals and working companion animals
  • raise money for the nation’s pet care charities

As a library we have a role to play in supporting the work of pet care professionals and in particular vets.  As can be expected there is a huge range of resources available on small animals so in honour of National Pet Month we thought we would highlight a few of the open access (free) ones.

Acta veterinaria Scandinavia
Banfield Journal: Achieving Success in Practice which has a critically appraised topic in every issue!
Emerging Infectious Diseases
Journal of animal welfare law

For more open access veterinary journals

dogandcat_220widthReview articles:
Yeates, J., Everitt, S., Innes, J. F. and Day, M. J. (2013) Ethical and evidential considerations on the use of novel therapies in veterinary practice. Journal of Small Animal Practice, 54(3), pp. 119-123 This article reviews the ethical and evidential considerations of novel veterinary therapies while safeguarding the welfare of animals.
AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals: 2013 Edition

DeBusk, S., Silberstein, N. And O’Keefe, L. (eds.) (2011) Anesthesia for the vet practitioner. Rev. 3rd ed. [online] Portland : Banfield Pet Hospital. Available from [Accessed 18 April 2013]

PubMed Central – access to journals in biomedical, life-sciences and veterinary science
AVMA collections – a selection of articles from AVMA scientific journals that have the most practical application on specific subject areas e.g. Canine behaviour series, Disaster preparedness and response (including health of search and rescue dogs), Feral cats, Heartworm disease, Obesity in dogs, Rabies, Spay-neuter

For more open access databases

The International Veterinary Information Service (IVIS) provides free access to veterinarians, veterinary students, technicians and animal health professionals worldwide e.g.

American Association of Feline Practitioners Practice Guidelines (1998-)
European Association of Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging (2005-)
European Veterinary Conference (2007-)
European Society of Veterinary Orthopaedics and Traumatology(1998-)
North American Veterinary Conference (2005-)
World Small Animal Veterinary Association (2005-)

All you need to do is register with the website.

So as you can see there is a lot of information out there. Don’t forget if you need help finding your way through it all we are here to help.

First image by Claudio Matsuoka under this Creative Commons License
Second image by Carterse under this Creative Commons License
Third image by MarilynJane under this Creative Commons License
Fourth image by Ohnoitsjamie under this Creative Commons License

One of the professions youngest and brightest ornaments

Recently there has been another of those coincidences that those of us who work in libraries love.  Two quite separate enquiries which end up having something – or in this case someone – in common.

The first enquiry was from a researcher who wanted to look at The quarterly journal of veterinary science in India and army animal management and the second from someone who was researching James McCall, founder of Glasgow Veterinary College.

John Henry Steel

John Henry Steel

The connection? John Henry Steel – who was the co-founder of the journal and who had a medal named after him which was awarded to McCall in 1899.

As is usual when this happens curiosity got the better of me and I had to find out more..

John Henry Steel FRCVS (1855-1891) followed his father into the veterinary profession, graduating from the London Veterinary College in 1875.  After a brief spell in the army he took up a post as Demonstrator of Anatomy at the London College where he remained for five years, before resigning when the professorship, which he had been promised, was abolished.

He re-entered the army and, in 1882, went to serve in India, which was to be the scene of his most notable achievements. Upon arrival, he “was immediately impressed by the utter want, outside the Army, of anything approaching Veterinary Science” and set about rectifying the situation.

One of his first moves was to establish, in 1883, The quarterly journal of veterinary science in India and army animal management.  This journal, which he co-founded with Frederick Smith, allowed vets to share information and record  progress in treatments etc.

Secondly, in 1886, he established a veterinary college in Bombay so that the population could be “educated in veterinary matters”.

Sadly the severe mental and physical strain of running the journal and the College took its toll and he was taken ill, returning to England in 1888.  Against the advice of doctors, he went back to India after a few months and involved himself fully in the life of Bombay, taking up the reins at the College again and becoming a Fellow of the University and a JP.

His health did not improve and, seemingly aware of his imminent death, he wrote an editorial for the journal, dated October 1890, titled ‘Cui Bono’ (to whose benefit?).  It starts:

“To every conscientious worker there arrive times of introspection when the questions arise to him what has been the outcome of my efforts?”

Steel then proceeds to assess his life’s work and in particular to question the usefulness of the Journal and whether it was worth the “at times laborious work”.

He feels

“it has succeeded in enlarging the mind of the public and profession on matters veterinary…[and has] enabled men working on the same subjects… to co-ordinate their work and results”

and if at all possible it must continue

“Considering how things were before the Quarterly, considering the work our Journal has been enabled to do…we have decided to continue its production”

Announcement of closure of journal

Announcement of closure of journal

Sadly this was not to be and  Steel wrote an announcement  stating that owing to severe illness he was having to leave India and that the Journal will no longer be continued after December 1890.  The publisher then adds to the end of the announcement, which was distributed with the last issue, “J H Steel, Esq …died at Bombay on Thursday the 8th”.

He was  just short of his 36th birthday.

The three page obituary in the Veterinary Record (31 January 1891), from which the title of this post is taken, and the fact that the RCVS instituted a medal in his honour testifies to the high regard in which he was held by the profession.

The College which he founded, the Journal and his books on diseases of the ox, dog, elephant, sheep, and camel and on equine relapsing fever remain as his lasting legacy.

Edward Mayhew on dogs

In our collection of watercolours by Edward Mayhew there is only one featuring dogs.

Illustration of dogs by Edward MayhewThe top image is captioned ‘Dog with retracted eye – near the termination(?) of  distemper’ and the bottom ‘The lasting effect left by nitrate of silver when applied to an ulcer on the eye of the dog.’

The fact that there is only one painting of dogs could be considered somewhat surprising as Mayhew wrote regularly on canine matters.  For example

  • On the effects of inhalation of the fumes of ether on dogs and cats, and by inference, on the horse; with the probable utility of such in veterinary medicine. (Veterinarian 1847 Vol XX pp 86-89)
  • Comparative pathology elucidated by injection of cold water into the uterus (Veterinarian 1848 Vol XXI pp 554 -561) which describes the treatment of a bitch with an inverted and protruding uterus.
  • The catheter passable in dogs (Veterinarian 1849 Vol XXII pp 16-19) which was the first account of the passage of a urinary catheter in dogs.

In the 1848 article Mayhew reveals that his practice dealt mainly in dogs – ‘[the] public have favoured me by consulting me largely upon the disease of dogs”.  His writings on dogs culminated in the 1854 publication:

Dogs: their management:  being a new plan of treating the animal based upon a consideration of his natural temperament (London: George Routledge).

The title page states the work is ‘illustrated by numerous woodcuts depicting the character and position of the dog when suffering disease’ but the illustrator is not named.  Was it Mayhew? If not were they based on originals by Mayhew like his later books on horses?

A possible clue to the illustrator can be found in Volume 4 of Frederick Smiths Early History of Veterinary Literature and its British development  where he describes two works by Mayhew published in 1854 –  the one listed above and another Dogs: their management and treatment issued under the pseudonym F. Forester.  However Frank Forester is now known to be the pseudonym of Henry William Herbert (1807-1858)  a novelist, journalist and illustrator who emigrated to the United States in 1831.

Searching for Forester and dogs quickly lead me to a revised edition (published 1857)  of a book titled The Dog by Dinks, Mayhew and Hutchinson compiled, abridged, edited and illustrated by Frank Forester.  This book is a compilation of  three separate, previously published works, on dogs including Mayhew’s which is described as the second American edition.  Does this mean that the illustrations in Mayhew’s 1854 book (which are exactly the same in the Forester compilation as in the individually published version)  were by Forester?  Certainly that is what most people seem to believe according to my internet search.

Further searching on Forester/Herbert led me to the Life and writings of Frank Forester edited by David W Judd (London, F Warne, 1882).  The section on Forester as editor states

“As the editor of other persons’ writings … Herbert was little more than a bookseller’s hack, lending his name and making a few annotations to previously published volumes, to secure for them a more rapid sale”

So presumably the version of Mayhew’s book that Smith refers to as issued under the pseudonym F. Forester was simply a repackage for the American market.  All of which might be considered to cast doubt on Forester as illustrator of Mayhew’s book.

Whoever the illustrator was the pictures offer an interesting insight into canine practice in the 1850s.  They show how to recognise healthy dogs as in the case of the Scotch Terrier below where ‘the coat is by the artist truthfully depicted as remarkably long, full and hairy’.

Scotch Terrier

Scotch Terrier

Illustrate dogs suffering from various diseases

Edward Mayhew Dogs: their management - Inflammation of the lungsEdward Mayhew's Dogs: their management - A mad dog on the march

(Note the man running away in the background from the rabid dog)

Edward Mayhew's Dogs: their management - Acute rheumatism

and show various veterinary treatments

Edward Mayhew's Dogs: their management - Dog with canker cap onEdward Mayhew's Dogs: their management - A dog taped or muzzled for operation

The National Air Raid Precautions for Animals Committee

Dog in WW2 gas mask

Dog modelling a Spratt’s canine gas mask

The National Air Raid Precautions for Animals Committee (NARPAC) was formed in the Summer of 1939, one of a number of protection initiatives established by the Home Office at a time when war with Hitler’s Germany was becoming inevitable. The Committee was composed of representatives from the Home Office, the Ministry of Agriculture, the police, the veterinary profession, and animal welfare societies. Its aim was to create a strategy for the management of pets, livestock and working animals during war time, and to disseminate information and initiatives to the public. It did not get off to the best of starts.

NARPAC initially produced the pamphlet Advice to Animal Owners which suggested rehoming animals in the country, in a manner similar to the evacuation of children from towns and cities into rural locations. Alternatively, it suggested “If you cannot place them in the care of neighbours, it really is kindest to have them destroyed.” In addition to the widely distributed pamphlet, this advice also appeared in many national newspapers. It’s thought that within a week of the outbreak of war on 3 September 1939 between 400,000 and 750,000 pets were killed. Veterinary surgeries faced a deluge of requests from owners to have their animals put to sleep. One Home Office publication featured a prominent advert for a Captive Bolt Pistol which was, it claimed, “The standard instrument for the humane destruction of domestic animals.”

This horrific number of animal deaths must be viewed within the context of a period of escalating insecurity. During these terrifying, uncertain days many owners must have feared their pets would be killed or injured by bomb blast, as well as concern as to how to feed their animals if food became scarce. The tone of the pamphlet must have made many consider it their patriotic duty to have their animals destroyed.

Nevertheless, something had to be done to stop these drastic actions. In October 1939 the Labour MP Herbert Morrison was appointed Minister for Home Security as part of the Wartime Coalition Government. He requested that NARPAC create new measures to reassure the public and to stop the animal slaughter. The result was a new focus on community-based activities in line with other Air Raid Precaution measures. NARPAC’s plan centred on three new initiatives. Firstly, the creation of a network of first-aid veterinary posts across the UK to return the focus on treating injured animals, not destroying them. As well as existing veterinary surgeries, dispensaries and animal shelters, it was hoped more posts would be created utilising empty shops or housed within larger shops. These posts were also intended to be mobile, able to go out into the streets or people’s homes to treat injured animals. NARPAC worked to ensure all posts were suitably resourced with equipment and staff, many of whom would be volunteers.

Logo of the National Air Raid Precaution for Animals Committee

NARPAC Logo, from a registration leaflet

Secondly, NARPAC created a registration scheme for pets, livestock and working animals. By registering their animals, owners would be provided with a registration disc to attach to the animal’s collar, containing a unique reference number and the owner’s contact details. This meant that animal lost during air raids could be identified and reunited with their owner. There was also a specific appeal to horse owners, given that a distressed horse could bolt for miles and could cause danger for itself and others.

Thirdly, NARPAC created the post of National Animal Guards, staffed by volunteers from the local community. These Guards would be responsible for overseeing the registration scheme in their area, with each guard assigned responsibility for around one hundred households. As an initial step the Guards were to go door to door encouraging registration and distributing discs. Guards were also given a collection tin for donations, including from those households without animals. Beyond this Guards were to aid animal owners in finding their nearest veterinary post but were not expected to perform any treatment on animals. Guards could be recognised by their white armbands with the NARPAC logo and would also have a notice outside their homes. This was therefore an important, visible role within the community similar to that of the ARP Wardens who activated air raid warning sirens and ensured blackout conditions were observed. As with Wardens, NARPAC Guards had permission to be on the streets during air raids, either on foot or in their vehicles provided it displayed the NARPAC logo. As the NARPAC leaflet stated, “The National Animal Guards are the FRIENDS of your animals – when they call, treat them as friends”. It was suggested that Guards should aim to call at each house every six months to check up on registration and hopefully collect more donations.

Guards were organised by a locally appointed Honorary District Organiser (“…some suitable person, who may be agreed upon…”) who would initially divide their area into a number of divisions. Each division would also appoint Chief Animal Guards, responsible for the recruitment and management of the National Animal Guards. The Chief Animal Guard was also responsible for depositing donations into specially created bank accounts.

Many animal welfare organisations became involved with NARPAC including the RSPCA, the PDSA, the National Farmers’ Union and the National Canine Defence League. The RCVS was invited to nominate a suitable member for NARPAC’s Board of Control. One of the RCVS’s former presidents, GH Livesey was duly selected for the post. George Herbert Livesey had graduated from Edinburgh as a veterinary in 1899 and set up practice in Hove, Sussex where he remained until he retired in 1924. He was elected to the RCVS Council in 1922 and served on a number of boards including the finance committee, library committee (elected chair in 1928) and the animal charities committee. He served as President for the 1938/39 term and joined the War Emergency Executive Committee, from its establishment by a Council resolution dated the 27th of September 1939. Sadly, Livesey would not live to see the return of peacetime, dying on the 20th of November 1943. Such was his commitment to the veterinary profession that Livesey left money in his will to provide benefit to ‘…veterinary students and young practitioners in reduced circumstances to assist them in their studies.’

Portrait of GH Livesey

GH Livesey, committed Committee man

With new measures in place NARPAC created a new public information booklet entitled Wartime Aids for All Animal Owners to explain these new provisions. This booklet emphasises the public’s collective responsibility for caring for the nation’s pets and livestock, including the important advice that “Those who are staying at home should not have their animals destroyed.” Much of the booklet contains sensible, achievable guidance for owners of all sorts of animals. This includes recipes for feeding cats and dogs should food become scarce, plus advice on the availability of sedative medicine suitable for nervous animals. There’s advice on protecting cage birds and providing gas-proof accommodation for poultry. The booklet also recognises that with the rationing of petrol, horses were becoming more prevalent as a means of transporting goods and people. Accordingly new Horse Emergency Standings were to be created as temporary accommodation for horses during air raids. Many of these standings were in public parks, but more were in private stables or empty garages.

The booklet considers “There are no suitable gas masks for animals”. However, that was soon to change as manufacturers began creating new animal safety products. One example is the dogfood firm of Spratt’s of Poplar who extended their output to include wartime protection for dogs. Dog gas masks were produced in a range of sizes suitable for different breeds. Each pack included a training hood to help the dog become accustomed to wearing headgear. Spratt’s also produced white blackout coats to make dogs more visible at night, and a range of gas-proof kennels; a large wooden box with its own air filter system. According to newspaper adverts, the box’s solid walls would help deaden the noise of gunfire, plus a top window so owner and dog could see each other. These features, the manufacturers hoped, would be enough to reassure the dog once placed inside.

With hindsight it’s easy to say that NARPAC’s initial pamphlet should not have advocated destroying animals, even as a worst-case scenario at a time of national crisis. Something clearly had to be done at the outbreak of war, and the overwhelming response to these words could not necessarily have been predicted. Fortunately, the range of parties working under the NARPAC banner acted swiftly to produce workable measures focusing energies onto animal welfare, with the emphasis on community participation and collective responsibility.