Sunday, February 8, 2009
Cats and Dogs Exterminated During Plague
During the Great Plague of London (1664-65), cats and dogs fell under suspicion of spreading the disease that was claiming the lives of over a thousand Londoners a week. In his Journal of the Plague Years, author Daniel Defoe wrote of the widely-held belief that because dogs and cats were "domestic animals and are apt to run from house to house, and from street to street, so they are capable of carrying the effluvia or infectious steams of bodies ... even in their furs and hair." Hoping to end the spread of this fatal "effluvia," the lord mayor issued an order to kill all cats and dogs in the city. A special executioner was appointed to the gruesome task. An estimated 40,000 dogs and 200,000 cats lost their lives in a useless effort to contain the Plague. Not only did the disease rage on, but the natural predators of the true Plague carriers - flea-infested rats - had been eliminated.