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Valuing Animals

, 232 pages

5 halftones

November 2002



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Valuing Animals

Veterinarians and Their Patients in Modern America

Over the course of the twentieth century, the relationship between Americans and their domestic animals has changed dramatically. In the 1890s, pets were a luxury, horses were the primary mode of transport, and nearly half of all Americans lived or worked on farms. Today, the pet industry is a multibillion-dollar-a-year business, keeping horses has become an expensive hobby, and consumers buy milk and meat in pristine supermarkets. Veterinarians have been very much a part of these changes in human-animal relationships. Indeed, the development of their profession—from horse doctor to medical scientist—provides an important perspective on these significant transformations in America's social, cultural, and economic history.

In Valuing Animals, Susan D. Jones, trained as both veterinarian and historian, traces the rise of veterinary medicine and its impact on the often conflicting ways in which Americans have assessed the utility and worth of domesticated creatures. She first looks at how the eclipse of the horse by motorized vehicles in the early years of the century created a crisis for veterinary education, practice, and research. In response, veterinarians intensified their activities in making the livestock industry more sanitary and profitable. Beginning in the 1930s, veterinarians turned to the burgeoning number of house pets whose sentimental value to their owners translated into new market opportunities. Jones describes how vets overcame their initial doubts about the significance of this market and began devising new treatments and establishing appropriate standards of care, helping to create modern pet culture.

Americans today value domestic animals for reasons that typically combine exploitation and companionship. Both controversial and compelling, Valuing Animals uncovers the extent to which veterinary medicine has shaped—and been shaped by—this contradictory attitude.

Susan D. Jones, D.V.M., Ph.D., is an assistant professor of history at the University of Colorado–Boulder.

"A well-researched book that explores the impact of the value of an animal or its species in shaping the development of the veterinary profession."

"A fascinating read and was refreshingly not a tale of inexorable scientific and medical progress toward an idyllic present... brings to light the hows and whys of veterinary medicine and gave me a measure of self-awareness of my professional roots and current role in American society."

"This study by Susan Jones is very welcome. Based on a wide variety of scientific and popular sources, she has approached the history of veterinary medicine and the veterinary profession in twentieth-century America from a perspective of changing human-animal relationships, particularly the changing economic and emotional value of domesticated animals... Original and compelling."

"Jones's study reveals particularly well the dynamic connections between the history of veterinary medicine and the history of American cultural preoccupations with animals."

"[ Valuing Animals] stimulates thought about the role of veterinarians and how veterinarians interact with their patients and with people who seek guidance and confirmation as to the value of animals."

"[Jones] has a compelling view, and this book is a gem."

"Jones' lively and well-written book traces the evolution of the veterinary profession in the twentieth century from the 'horse doctor' of 1900 to today's scientific practitioner. "

"A fascinating survey of the changing relationships between Americans and their animals, as mediated by the veterinary profession."

"Thoroughly researched, with extensive endnotes (many annotated) and an essay on sources, this book makes important contributions to the diverse fields of economic sociology, comparative medicine, human-animal relationships, American history, and American popular culture."

"This fine book will set new standards for thorough research and scholarly excellence in the recording of veterinary medicine. It will greatly enhance the knowledge of and appreciation for the veterinary profession as a unique, often poorly understood, but vitally significant force in American twentieth-century history."

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