Joe McKendry

In the first week of the war in September 1939, at least 400,000 cats and dogs in London were destroyed. Pet owners themselves took the decision to kill their animals; the British government had not issued a diktat or emergency measures requiring the mass killing, which was criticized at the time by animal charities and individual animal supporters. The popular disc jockey Christopher Stone broadcast to the nation in November 1939 that “to destroy a faithful friend when there is not need to do so is yet another way of letting war creep into your home.” Nina, Duchess of Hamilton, a co-founder of the Animal Defence Society, declared, “We should be horrified if this had happened abroad. How can we explain such a thing to our foreign friends in this so-called animal-loving England.”

—Adapted from The Great Cat & Dog Massacre: The Real Story of World War II’s Unknown Tragedy, by Hilda Kean

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