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Britain’s forgotten four-legged victims: Two million ‘beloved pets’ were slaughtered during WWII

On the eve of war, a National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee was formed. A Home Office pamphlet stated that pets would not be allowed into public air raid shelters. The same pamphlet featured a do-it-yourself guide to 'putting animals down'.

CLARE CAMPBELL: ‘From the Blitz to rationing and the threat of invasion, World War II was a torrid experience for the British people — and their pets. From the start of the conflict, families up and down the country began to have their beloved cats and dogs put down. Incredibly, over the course of the war, well over two million pets perished. The government even plotted to get rid of all ‘non-essential’ animals, launching a clandestine anti-dog hate campaign and backing the criminal prosecutions of those who gave cats so much as a saucer of milk…

So how did such a brutal cull — and on such a massive scale — come about?… The initial stages of the war were the most dangerous for British pets. In the first week alone, 750,000 animals were killed — all because of the mistaken assumption that they would go barking mad at the first wail of an air raid siren. On the eve of war, a National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee was formed… A Home Office pamphlet stated that pets would not be allowed into public air raid shelters, which often became crammed with hundreds of desperate families. The same pamphlet featured a do-it-yourself guide to putting animals down. It also carried an advert for the captive bolt pistols of the kind still used today to stun animals before slaughter…

For all their suffering, nowhere is the fate of all these animals commemorated. But with luck that might be about to change. This summer, artist Nicola White found a corroded dog tag bearing the name ‘Bonzo’ while she was searching for artefacts on the muddy banks of the Thames. As she traced the wartime Bonzo and his family via the address on the tag, she became fascinated with the story of what became of those millions of cats and dogs who paid the ultimate price for Hitler’s aggression. Together we have launched a campaign to raise £25,000 for a bronze memorial to commemorate the pets that suffered so much’. SOURCE…

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