Race Discrimination and the Wrongful Use of Dogs in America

Dogs have been wrongfully used in acts of race discrimination in America for at least 400 years.

Dogs have been used as a tool to intimidate and control black people since the start of slavery. They were used on slave ships to instill terror and on ground to track runaway slaves. In fact, man bred dogs - known as negro dogs - solely for the purpose to track, attack and capture runaway slaves. The most feared dog was the now-extinct Cuban mastiff, a cross between an English mastiff, a Spanish war dog and a scent hound.

Violent racism was incorporated into the training process, and real slaves were used when teaching the dogs to capture them. The dogs were raised to never see a black man except during training, and slaves were forced to whip the dogs to get them to hate them. Slaves were sent to the woods for the dogs to follow their scents and aggressively attack them. If the dogs were successful, they were rewarded with chunks of meat.

According to a 1936 narrative of an ex-slave, "Plenty times de [slaves] run ‘way, cause ‘dey have to work awful hard and de sun awful hot. Dey hides in de woods and Mr. Snow keep [slave] dogs to hunt ‘em with. Dem dogs have big ears and dey so bad I never fools ‘round dem. Mr. Snow take of dere chains to git de scent … and dey kep’ on till dey finds him, and sometimes dey hurt him. I knows dey tore de meat off one dem field hands."

Dogs remained tools of racial oppression after the US Civil War when slavery became illegal. Southern states would indiscriminately arrest blacks for ridiculous charges like being unemployed. Being too poor to pay the outrageous fines, they were imprisoned and leased to private businesses to perform manual labor. Dogs were used during this time to hunt down escaped inmates, and were often brought to lynchings to intimidate and assault black victims.

When dogs began working with police in the 1950s, K-9 attacks against black people in the South were high. And when peaceful protestors marched along the streets of Birmingham in 1963 to end racial segregation, police dogs were used to intimidate them - men, women and children. In the 1980s, Los Angeles police officers were accused of calling black suspects dog biscuits when they deployed the dogs on them, and in 2013, research showed the number of African American and Latino residents of Los Angeles bitten by police dogs were troublingly high.

According to a Department of Justice report investigation released in 2015, Ferguson Police "have exclusively set their dogs against black individuals, often in cases where doing so was not justified by the danger presented." One hundred percent of the cases in which a suspect was bitten by an attack dog were black. One incident involved an unarmed 14 year old who showed no aggression - he was bitten on his ankle, thigh and arm when protecting his face. The young child recalled the officers laughing about the incident afterward.

It's a shame race discrimination continues today, and it's a shame man's best friend has been wrongfully used in these hateful acts.


Belferlein: Do Dogs Go to Heaven?

Belferlein (named Tölpel by some accounts), was a Pomeranian who belonged to a famous German theologian and Augustinian priest named Martin Luther - who believed dogs do go to Heaven.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Belferlein was the family farm dog who was often mentioned in Martin Luther's writings. He was well loved by the family, and when he died, Luther's children asked him what happened to their dog now that he had passed away. Luther responded "Even for the brave Belferlein there will once be a place in Heaven."

Most theologians of the time believed animals had no souls and they did not go to Heaven. However, according to Luther, "I believe that the Belfelein and Hündelein go to Heaven and that every creature has an immortal soul." When asked if dogs go to Heaven, he replied "Certainly there will be, for Peter calls that day the time of the restitution of all things. Then, as is clearly said elsewhere, he will create a new Heaven and a new earth. He will also create new Clownies with skin of gold and hair of pearls. There and then God will be all in all. No animal will eat any other. Snakes and toads and other beasts which are poisonous on account of original sin will then be not only innocuous but even pleasing and nice to play with. Why is it that we cannot believe that all things will happen as the Bible says, even in this article of the resurrection? Original sin is at fault."

So do dogs go to Heaven? I believe they do, because Heaven wouldn't be perfect if they didn't.

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Tesem: Ancient Egyptian Hunting Dog

The now-extinct Tesem (a type of dog - not a breed) is one of the earliest known domesticated dogs.

Images of the Tesem have been found on ancient Egyptian artifacts and hieroglyphics dating back to 3200 BC. The Tesem, which roughly translates to hunting dog, was a hunter, guard and companion. This greyhound-like dog had a lean body, long legs, prick ears and a curled tail. Two notable dogs were Akbaru, who belonged to King Khufu (2589-2566 BC) and was said to have been buried in the king's tomb with him, and Abuwtiyuw, who was believed to be a royal guard dog during the Sixth Dynasty (2345-2181 BC) belonging to a servant of a King whose name is unknown. Abuwtiyuw received an elaborate burial fit for a king, and his stele reads:

"His Majesty ordered that he be buried ceremonially, that he be given a coffin from the royal treasury, fine linen in great quantity, and incense. His Majesty also gave perfumed ointment and ordered that a tomb be built for him by the gangs of masons. His Majesty did this for him in order that he [the dog] might be honored before the great god, Anubis." (Hobgood-Oster, 41-42).

It is believed that both the Africanis and Basenji are descendants of the Tesem, and the Tesem influenced the development of sighthounds such as the Saluki, Sloughi and Azawakh.