By Sophie Menache
Society and Animals, Vol.5:1 (1997)
Abstract: In a broad survey of negative and hostile attitudes toward canines in pagan, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions, the author posits that warm ties between humans and canines have been seen as a threat to the authority of the clergy and indeed, of God. Exploring ancient myth, Biblical and Rabbinical literature, and early and medieval Christianity and Islam, she explores images and prohibitions concerning dogs in the texts of institutionalized, monotheistic religions, and offers possible explanations for these attitudes, including concern over disease.
Introduction: Pet-keeping, particularly dog-keeping, is commonplace in Western society, to the extent that few question the practice. Still, as the above quotations from the Nerv Testament and The Talmud hint, there is clear opposition to dogs on the part of institutionalized religions. Monotheistic doctrines, in particular, evince hostility toward canines, placing a strong emphasis on their negative aspects. This antagonism to dogs from organized religion is astonishing, since it lacks a clear textual justification such as that found in Genesis concerning the snake. Further, it challenges both the widespread custom of pet-keeping and the classical traditions that elevated dogs to the epicenter of harmonious relationship between the animal world and humankind.