Why are people spending their time and money rescuing dogs who are the victims of abandonment or abuse being labeled “white supremacists?”
In most countries, dogs are regarded either as “working” or as companions and they rarely venture into the realm of politics apart from occasionally serving as props to demonstrate that their owners are basically good and caring people. Only Donald Trump did not follow the pattern, being the first president not to have any pet in the White House since Teddy Roosevelt. Trump’s complete lack of empathy and total self-centeredness meant that he had little to share with any living thing and his extreme Germaphobia translated into a ban on any animal coming within range.
As a rather extreme dog lover, it was a personal pleasure post-Trump to see the Bidens take up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, accompanied by their two German Shepherds, one of which was a rescue. But that joy did not reckon with the irrational angry politics that have taken hold of the United States of America during the past year. The right-wing media quickly went to work, attacking one of the dogs in particular, Champ, a 12-year old male. The incident took place on February 19th on Newsmax, where host Greg Kelly had two “guest historians” on his show who serially accused Biden of failing to take good care of his dog. “Did you see the dog?” Kelly asked after putting up a picture of Champ on the screen. “I want to show you something I noticed. Does he look a little rough?”
Kelly went on with “I love dogs, but this dog needs a bath and a comb and all kinds of love and care. I’ve never seen a dog in the White House like this. This dog looks like it’s from—I’m sorry—from the junkyard. And I love that dog, but he looks like he’s not been well cared for… ” The guests agreed that Champ did not look good and observed that he was not “presidential” in appearance.
Keith Olbermann, a genuine dog lover and sports journalist, was quick to respond, tweeting “This is a 12-year old German Shepherd – a senior dog. And you’re insulting his APPEARANCE? He’s in better shape than any of you – and smarter than all of you combined.” Another tweet commented that “Champ is 12. He’s in his 80s in human years. Newsmax isn’t doing real journalism. It’s just mean-spirited and creepy” while yet another observed that “500k dead Americans, Texas has no power, global pandemic, food shortage crisis. But these 3 guys have concerns about a dog not getting a haircut.”
But just to demonstrate that idiocy is bipartisan, there was also the coverage of Republican Senator Ted Cruz’s abrupt departure from without-power Houston for a few days in sunny Cancun. Cruz was blasted for abandoning the ship during a time of peril and then lying about his journey but critics soon found that there was also a dog story that could be exploited to make the senator look even worse.
It seems that Cruz abandoned the family poodle “Snowflake” (I will leave it up to readers to speculate on the name) in a house that was without power, heat or water. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quick to pile on the conservative Republican Senator, tweeting “Don’t vote for anyone you wouldn’t trust with your dog” on Friday after a picture of the small white poodle looking out from the front door window on Cruz’s River Oaks mansion appeared all over the social media. But the story was less than it seemed. As it turned out, there was a full-time security guard at the Cruz house who was taking care of the dog, making sure it had food and water and was able to go outside to relieve itself in the yard.
And there is more. I’ve saved the best story for last. I would bet that most people would not know that many of those apparent good souls who spend their time and money rescuing dogs who are the victims of abandonment or abuse are actually “white supremacists?” A recent book review of self-described gender and sexual studies academic Katja Guenther’s The Life and Death of Shelter Animals has appeared. It is entitled “Critical Race Theory is Coming for the Dogs” and its author is director of The No Kill Advocacy Center, Nathan J. Winograd.
The review has been in turn reviewed at great length with additional supporting material by Canadian journalist Barbara Kay who describes how Guenther claims that many shelter dogs are being killed because of “capitalism, anthroparchy (!), white supremacy and patriarchy,” while also arguing that permitting dogs to sleep inside the home is “a privilege reserved for the white and wealthy.” Guenther also credits “racism, classism and the caste system [as being] at the heart of the broken animal sheltering institution.”
Guenther also argues that dangerous dogs should not be euthanized because they are more likely to be the companion animals of disadvantaged Black and Latino men. If this argument reminds one of the rationale for some of the many excesses of the Black Lives Matter movement, it should. For Guenther, pit bulls are canine versions of young, heedless of consequences men of color.
Guenther characterizes vicious dogs as a legitimate form of “animal resistance,” a genre of “purposeful action.” Dogs that bite often are only displaying “a strategy” to “reject the human domination of animals.” In an earlier article entitled “Taking the ghetto out of the dog” Guenther explained how “…rescuers of pit bulls in the Los Angeles area participate in remaking pit bulls so that the dogs shed their racialized, gendered, and classed identities as companions to black and poor Latinx men and instead become suitable companions for white, feminized middle-class homes. Pit bull rescuers employ a range of strategies to make the dogs more palatable to the types of adopters rescuers see as desirable, and help reinforce rescuers’ construction of whiteness as morally superior vis-à-vis non-human animals. Even as they work to save individual dogs, rescuers of pit bulls leave intact beliefs that the dogs’ previous guardians were problematic and fail to challenge the social structures that lead the dogs into the shelter.”