In the wake of the considerable cultural changes and social shifts that the United States and all advanced industrial democracies have experienced since the late 1960s and early 1970s, social discourse around the disempowered has changed in demonstrable ways. In From Property to Family: American Dog Rescue and the Discourse of Compassion, Andrei Markovits and Katherine Crosby describe a “discourse of compassion” that actually alters the way we treat persons and ideas once scorned by the social mainstream. This “culture turn” has also affected our treatment of animals inaugurating an accompanying “animal turn”. In the case of dogs, this shift has increasingly transformed the discursive category of the animal from human companion to human family member. One of the new institutions created by this attitudinal and behavioral change towards dogs has been the breed specific canine rescue organization, examples of which have arisen all over the United States beginning in the early 1980s and massively proliferating in the 1990s and subsequent years. While the growing scholarship on the changed dimension of the human-animal relationship attests to its social, political, moral and intellectual salience to our contemporary world, the work presented in Markovits and Crosby’s book constitutes the first academic research on the particularly important institution of breed specific dog rescue.
“Andrei Markovits and Katherine Crosby deserve high praise for this highly original, carefully researched study of breed specific canine rescue groups in the United States. But From Property to Family is much more than just a book about dogs. Through their detailed grasp of history, culture, and philosophy, Markovits and Crosby situate the emergence of breed specific rescue within a discourse of compassion that has shifted attitudes toward animals. They explore topics including the origins and proliferation of breed specific rescue, the preponderance of women in the groups, the rescue of stigmatized breeds, and the growing role of social media. Using eloquent and accessible language, Markovits and Crosby encourage readers to think deeply about complex issues. From Property to Family is essential reading for anyone interested in the relationships we share with other animals.”
—Leslie Irvine, University of Colorado at Boulder, author of If You Tame Me: Understanding Our Connection with Animals
“I love this book… it is a subtle and persuasive argument about the changing nature of animals and American society.”
—Kristin Luker, University of California, Berkeley
“This is a thoughtful, well-researched study of the place of canine rescue in a broader, evolving ‘discourse of compassion’ that the authors argue ensued from the generation of the 1960s. The book is likely to be a major contribution to the burgeoning sociology of animal-human interactions. Those with an interest in such interactions, in the development of human and animal rights and the ‘discourse of compassion,’ and those involved in animal rescue itself are likely to find this book a valuable source of information and a foundation for future research concerning the softening of norms that Alexis de Tocqueville predicted 175 years ago would take hold in ‘democratic’ societies.”
—John Torpey, the Graduate Center, City University of New York
Cover photograph: The family dog makes herself very comfortable on the living room couch. © bradrickerby