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Michael Brandow talks purebred dogs at BookCourt

Bulldogs? Bull s---: New book denounces purebreds

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This should give you paws for thought.

The scribe who literally wrote the book about New York’s poop scoop laws will be at Book Court in Boerum Hill on Feb. 7 to talk about his new work, “A Matter of Breeding.” In the book, he controversially criticizes a dog culture obsessed with purebreds, saying the craze is about little more than status.

“It’s very much like having a favorite football team,” said author and dog walker Michael Brandow. “You love them no matter how bad they are.”

Brandow traces the interest in canine lineage back to the Victorian era, when aristocratic subjects of the United Kingdom were overly concerned about their own bloodlines because it actually dictated their place in society. They wanted their dogs to be a symbol of their status, he said.

“That’s when dogs were first color-coded for the stage,” he said. “They were standardized into types that had never been recognized before.”

He credits the American Kennel Club for transferring the fixation on purebreds to today’s dog culture.

“The AKC, an elite social club for millionaires, sold this idea of purebreds to the average consumer,” he said.

The result, he said, is that many people today choose their best friends based largely on looks and labels — the same way people choose sneakers because of a brand insignia.

“All these years we’ve been selecting for looks rather than health or behaviors,” Brandow said. “It’s like any brand-name affiliation.”

The trouble is that purebreds suffer greatly from poor health, he said.

“They have shocking levels of cancer and epilepsy and other problems, yet people go on buying them anyway,” he said.

In Brooklyn, like in most places, the types of dogs you see are often related to the income level of the area, Brandow said. You are more likely to find poodles or bulldogs in a neighborhood like Park Slope than in Bushwick or Crown Heights. But he does take exception to Spike Lee’s famous claim about Fort Greene Park.

“Have you seen Fort Greene Park in the morning? It looks like a m------------ Westminster Dog Show,” Lee said during a Black History Month lecture at Pratt Institute last February.

“I’m sure a lot of those dogs in Fort Greene Park are mixes,” Brandow said. “I think Spike Lee might just resent dogs.”

But there is some good news, Brandow said. On the whole, people are starting to wake up to the idea that breeds are not important. This can be seen with the recent popularity of pit bulls, which Brandow said are not even a breed at all.

“People are learning that you don’t need breeds,” he said. “Dogs are individuals.”

Michael Brandow and “A Matter of Breeding” at BookCourt [163 Court St. between Dean and Pacific Streets in Boerum Hill, (718) 875–3677, www.bookcourt.com]. Feb. 7 at 7 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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