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Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  364 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Cats and dogs were once wild animals. Today, they are family members and surrogate children. A little over a century ago, pets didn't warrant the meager legal status of property. Now, they have more rights and protections than any other animal in the country. Some say they're even on the verge of becoming legal persons.

How did we get here—and what happens next?

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Hardcover, 336 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by PublicAffairs (first published January 1st 2014)
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Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: net-galley, favorites
David Grimm utilizes his skills obtained from his career at Science to write an empathetic and thought provoking work. Animals were once wild, living as modern day wolves and wild cats, but eventually domesticated by the human species. We see our canine and feline friends as family, equally important as our children and spouses. We would save them first from burning buildings, and withstand atrocious circumstances with our furred family before abandoning them. How did this giant leap from feral ...more
Dec 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
I received an ARC of this book for free through the Goodreads First Reads program, and I found it to be an extremely interesting account of the changing status of dogs and cats in society from the time they first became domesticated thousands of years ago to the present day in which many actually consider them their children. The author presents a very balanced view of the myriad issues involved in whether we treat pets as property or as something more, possibly even persons from a legal standpo ...more
Pankaj Goyal
Dec 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I received this book as an e-book from Netgalley.

Dogs and cats play a very important role in people’s lives today. People not only love and pamper them but even treat them like their own children. In other words, these animals have become an inseparable part of our family. Now, these animals have more rights and protection than any other animal in the world. How did this happen? How these animals (which were once wild in nature) became humans’ best friends and companions? How these animals are o
Tina Kim
As someone who is just bonkers for her dog and cries with regularity just over the thought of her passing one day, I loved the section titled "Family." I also appreciated learning the evolution of pets' legal rights over the past century and absolutely agree that the law cannot only see them as property that people can easily dispense in cases of emergency and evacuation.

However, my strongest criticism lies with Grimm's constant comparison of pets' rights to civil rights for human beings, speci
May 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If you're looking for a good overview of the evolving role of cats and dogs in our society, this is it. David Grimm does a terrific job covering the past, present, and possible future of the relationship between people and their dogs and cats in a way that is both informative and entertaining.

Grimm covers many of the major issues of interest to animal lovers, including animal cognition, anti-cruelty laws, animal rights, breed bans, TNR, and much more. There are moments that might be difficult f
Feb 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Read my full review:

My opinion: As a lover and spoiler of pets, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

On that note, it is a very good, but also a particularly dry read. I broke the book down into "daily read" sections because of the amount of detail provided.

Parts of the book had a schizophrenic feeling because the author jumped from dogs to cats to other animals at times when it didn't feel appropriate and/or necessary.

I loved the history part of the book more than the genetics
Sep 11, 2016 added it
I've always had pets growing up. As a child, my dog was like my brother to me but just a dog to my parents. I never understood why they didn't feel the same way about him as I did. Now as an adult, our cats and our dog are very much a part of the family. We call ourselves their parents, brothers and sister. It was refreshing to read this book and learn so much more about the pets we've come to love. It's nice to know we're not alone. ...more
H. P.
Nov 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Pets are booming. Dog and cat ownership has quadrupled since the mid-60s and more households have dogs or cats than children. How we as a society view dogs and cats has changed rapidly as well. It’s that change, and the change in how the law views pets, that is Grimm’s focus.

Grimm starts with a short history of domestication. Not much changed in how we viewed pets, and animals in general, until the birth of animal rights in the Nineteenth Century. Even then, “[b]efore 1986, only four states had
Jul 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In the past few years, I have read at least 75 books about dogs, so when a new dog book comes out, I kind of assume that I’ve already read some iteration of it before. But this has proven to be a false assumption with David Grimm’s new book, Citizen Canine.

Grimm explores the fast-paced and monumental success of American pets to become the most legally protected animals in the country. Given Americans’ deep love of their dogs and cats, and the billions of dollars a year we shell out on them, it i
Mar 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
David Grimm's Citizen Canine is a fascinating exploration of the meaning of Cats & Dogs (pets) in modern day American Society, particularly in the realm of Law & Science. He briefly traces the history of domestication, then draws on specific events that had profound effects on the legal status of pets –such as Hurricane Katrina, pet custody in divorce cases, deceased owners leaving their fortunes to their furry companions, numerous other pioneering court decisions, and the introduction of never ...more
Jakob Masic
Jun 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Throughly enjoyed every page of this book. Traveling through history of the rise and falls of our fur babies was exhilarating and very often heartbreaking.
I find it unusual that so many people in this world go to great lengths to prove the worth of animals, and why they mean so much to a great majority of us. My answer is simply LOVE.
I find I connect to greater and deeper lengths with animals rather then with humans. Not just now in an age where technology has taken the art of eye contact and
Jun 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
What a fascinating read. There was so much more content in here than I expected and while, admittedly, it is a long read to get through (definitely recommend having a companion fun book to ease the non-fiction of it all), it is well worth it. The most illuminating section for me was definitely the domestic evolution of cats & dogs. Also compelling was his coverage on the evolution of the relationship we have with our pets and the catalyst that was Katrina. Thank you federal government for finall ...more
Dianne J.
May 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A terrifically interesting read. Grimm covers the history of our favorite pets from 30,000 BC to current day, from wild to domesticated farm workers and body guards to companions, service animals and finally family members.

So much information I had never heard before that fills in some of the gaps in history. 1233 Pope Gregory IX linked cats to Satan, resulting in the killing of millions of cats in Europe. Without cats to kills the rats . . . 1348-1351 the Black Plague killed half of the popula
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I lived this book. Well written and highly informative, I often found myself unable to put it down. Grimm delves into the history of dogs and cats and explores the theories of how they came to be domesticated. From there he explores the history and evolution of these animals - from wild animals not even afforded the legal protections afforded to people's property thru the increasing number of rights and protections given to animals and their caregivers.

Be warned, though. As is typical of our le
One of the most emotionally draining books I have ever read. If you love animals, especially dogs, this is a must read book. But be warned it is full of the crimes humans have committed against dumb creatures, including the abandonment of pets during Hurricane Katrina, dog fighting, the fate of military service dogs, custody battles by divorcing 'parents' and other atrocities. The author also describes the court cases, laws, jurisprudence associated with those crimes. Many humans continue to abu ...more
Jun 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is so readable! When I think of all the research that went into this book and then consider how well written it is...well organized, concise, interesting...I'm blown away! I don't think too critically about anything anymore, but this book really gets you...thinking! I should have known not to read certain passages relating to the pets who suffered during Hurricane Katrina...I had nightmares for days after watching a documentary several years ago...but I read them anyway and sure enough that ...more
Jun 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Given David Grimm's position as the online editor of Science , I had originally thought this book would be about the molecular genetics of domestication. Then I went to a reading at the Ivy Bookshop, and realized that I was not like the other people there.

But this book does do an excellent job explaining a number of social trends I have observed. Like it or not, the next civil rights battle is for dogs and cats.
Dec 19, 2013 rated it liked it
There were plenty of thought provoking ideas buried in this book. The history of how dogs and cats became domesticated, came into our homes, and now fill an emotional void for people without spouses or children. A look at how how our pets sometimes seen as members of society with legal rights. But there was so much in this book that was dull, dry, boring historical fact that it was hard to get through. Even harder were the chapters on cruelty to animals.
Caroline Griffin
Mar 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Citizen Canine is a fascinating and provocative book that is a must read for anyone who has shared a home with a companion animal. I could not put this book down.
Apr 03, 2014 added it
Shelves: nonfiction
So dry it made me thirsty.
Sarah Brock
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: animals
Really enjoyed this book. Very interesting the journey cats & dogs have taken through history, from wild ancestry through to pets with legal rights.

Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very thorough tour through history and the movements afoot in the field of animal welfare. I learned a great deal about the issue.
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This will forever be one of my favorite books in life! I read this book so slowly so it wouldn’t end, and i cannot wait to reread it!
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting read. It left me with many issues to ponder.
Brian Griffith
Aug 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: animals
Grimm tracks the rise of law and policy concerning animal rights, painting several tooth-gritting portraits in courage of activists over the past 150 years. Then the rather intricate legal and philosophical questions arise of where legal rights, or legal personhood, for animals should or should not go. It's a book not just for people who feel strongly about animals, but for people who want to really think about the planet's future. ...more
Carol Storm
Jul 15, 2015 rated it liked it
The history of cats and dogs as pets is really amazing -- and the stories about modern rescue animals are heart warming. But I could have done without the crackpot stuff about pets becoming citizens with legal rights!
May 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Interesting book on the history, and current state, of pets. Issue of civil rights for pets is perhaps treated a little too seriously.
Jiajia Liu
Jun 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
The first few chapters was very informative and interesting. I saw a bit Jared diamond's shadow in the first two chapters. Then it got boring.

Apr 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pets
quite thought provoking
Jun 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Cute, covers a lot of legal issues. Light reading
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“Pets, he says, are trapped in a state from which there is no escape. “Domestication has essentially created a mentally disabled child bred to be dependent on us. My dogs will never get to the point where they’ll become wolves and live the way they’re supposed to live.” We wonder why our pets are neurotic, he says, why dogs chew themselves raw and cats shred the drapes. “It’s because they’re not supposed to be living with us. They exist in this netherworld between humans and animals.” 1 likes
“We may think we’ve given cats and dogs all sorts of rights, he says, but we can still buy, sell, and declaw them. And we kill millions in shelters every year. As long as they are not legal persons, our interests will always trump theirs in a court of law. They will always be Dred Scott. They will always be slaves.” 0 likes
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