Chris Pearson: “The “Discovery” of Dog Mess in interwar London, New York and Paris”

3:30pm - 5:00pm / Wednesday 19th February 2020 / Venue: Seminar Room 10, Rendall Building
Type: Seminar / Category: Department
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Dog excrement provided a modest income for some of the poorest members of nineteenth- century London, New York and Paris who eked out a living collecting dog mess to sell to tanneries. Stray dogs and pets both provided a plentiful supply of poo (dog care books may have prescribed hygienic rules for dogs in the home but none advised owners to pick up after their pet on the streets). As roads and pavements became cleaner, especially with the demise of horse-drawn transportation, doctors, public hygienists and councillors identified canine “visiting cards” as a threat to public health in the 1930s. Meanwhile, newspapers and voluntary groups, such as New York’s Outdoor Cleanliness Association, launched anti-fouling campaigns. Middle-class feelings of disgust informed these efforts, even if middle class dog owners were often identified as the main culprits in allowing their dogs to foul. Dog mess went from being a largely inconspicuous part of street life to a major source of frustration, raising new questions about the acceptability of dogs in the modern city. Defecation exposed the conditional nature of human-canine bonds. Dogs were welcome as long as they were clean and did not threaten human health.