World War II Home Front: Pets

World War II pets
Figure 1.--Here we aee a German boy with the family pet duriung 1941. The German people and their pets were at first relatively untouched by World War II exceppt for their husbads and sons being conscripted for military service. This began to change when the War started going against Germany. People in the country side were not badly impacted, but people in the cities and their pets were affected.

A good deal has been written about the dogs that were used by the various military services during World War II. Much less has been written about family pets. Some countries did not have a strong tradition of family pets, including China, Japan, and the Soviet Union. Other countries had very strong traditions, such as America, England, France, and Germany. Some families turned their dogs over for war service, but most attempted to keep them. Pets in America were not significantly affected by the War, but in many other countries there were significant consequences. The principal problem was food. A factor here is that the pet food industry was not well developed at the time of World War II. There was a pet food inudstry in America, but most pes were fed with table scraps even in the United States. This was even more so in Europe. Food during the War, especially meat, had to be rationed, even in the United States. The food shortages were especially secere in the countries occupied by the Germans where the Wherrmacht approprisated food supplies and shipped food needed in the occupied countries back to the Reich. Many occupied countries, such as Greece, experieced food shortages. In Greece people starved. The Germans also created a famine in the Netherlands at the end of the War. Urban residents were the most affected. Families which could barely feed themselves could hardly feed their pets. Wrenching decesions had to be made over treasured family pets. Another interesting topic is the pets kept by notable figures. Pergaps the two most famous was President Roosevelt's Fala and Hitler's Blondie.

War Dogs

A good deal has been written about the dogs that were used by the various military services during World War II.

Family Pets

Much less has been written about family pets. Some countries did not have a strong tradition of family pets, including China, Japan, and the Soviet Union. Other countries had very strong traditions, such as America, England, France, and Germany. Some families turned their dogs over for war service, but most attempted to keep them.

Pet Food

The principal problem was food. A factor here is that the pet food industry was not well developed at the time of World War II. There was a small pet food inudstry in America. The first pet food we know of was produced in America during the 1860s. A urbanization increased and pet keeping became increasingly common, there was a debate about pet nutrition. One source suggests canned pet food did not appear in America ubtil the 1940s. Dogs and cats of course like meat, but for the best nutrition, cereals should be mixed in their food. Most pets were fed with table scraps even in the United States. After the War, dried pet food began to increase in poplarity.

Country Trends

Pets were very popular in several different counties involved in World War II. Dogs seem especially popular in America, Enngland, and Germny. Pets in America were not significantly affected by the War, but in many other countries there were significant consequences. This was even more so in Europe. Food during the War, especially meat, had to be rationed, even in the United States. The food shortages were especially severe in the countries occupied by the Germans where the Wherrmacht appropriated food supplies and shipped food needed in the occupied countries back to the Reich. Many occupied countries, such as Greece, experieced food shortages. In Greece people starved. The Germans also created a famine in the Netherlands at the end of the War. Urban residents were the most affected. Families which could barely feed themselves could hardly feed their pets. Wrenching decesions had to be made over beloved family pets.

Bomb Shelters

Several countries were heavily bombed during the War, including England, Germany, and Japan. We do not have much informstion about the regulations were concerning bomn shelters. Japan had few pets or bomb sheters. England ad Germany did have pets and bomb shelters. We believe that pets were not allowed in British public shelters. We think the same was true in Germany, but we do not yet have any hard evidence to conform this.

Famous Pets

Another interesting topic is the pets kept by notable figures. Pergaps the two most famous was President Roosevelt's Fala and Hitler's Blondie. The Republicans made the mistake of making Fala a political issue in the 1944 presidential campaign. The President ansered back, "These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family doesn't resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I had left him behind on the Aleutian Islands and had sent a destroyer back to find him--at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars--his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself--such as that old, worm-eaten chestnut that I have represented myself as indispensable. But I think I have a right to resent, to object to libelous statements about my dog." (September 23, 1944). He was speaking to the Teamsters Union, but dog owners across the nation were furious at the Republicans. The most notable aspect of Hitler's Blondie is the way the dog seemed to cower around Hitler with its ears downs. Some speculate it probably reflects how the dog was trained, but we have nt seen this discussed in detail.

Zoos

Every country had major cities with zoos. Many of the animals were treasured by the local population. Bo,bing and other war damage destroyed many zoos and killed the animals. Others had to be ethenized because it was no longer possible to feed them. There are many sad stories about these animals. There are a few happy stories. One is the Belfast zoo baby elephant--Shelia. When the Luftwaffe began nomving British cities, zoos were among the facilities hit. Officials were concerned not only with feeding the amimals, but public safety--fears that amimals might escape from damaged cages. Belfast was a difficult target for the Luftwaffe because it was located so far north. There was, however, the short-lived Belfast Blitz (1941). The Ministry of Public Security ordered 23 potentially dangerous animals at the zoo to be euthenized. This included a tiger, a black bear, a lynx, a hyena, two polar bears and six wolves. Shelia was one of the lucky ones at the Belfast Zoo. A oman was found to take in Shelia in a relatively safe area of the city, away from the docks which were a primary Luftwaffe target. Shelia was then raised as a pet in the lady's back garden. The lady became known as "the elephant angel". Shelia went on to become a beloved fixture at the zoo and lived another 25 years until a natural death at the zoo (1966).

Information Needed

This is one of several toics that HBC has begun not because we know much about, but because we know very little. Hopefully readers will be able to provide informastion aboutvwhat happened in their countries.

Sources

Stueck, Rudi. E-msail message, March 8, 2010.






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Created: 9:25 PM 3/6/2010
Last updated: 12:02 AM 3/9/2010