During World War II in 1939, the United Kingdom faced a distressing event known as the “British Pet Holocaust.” Over 750,000 pets were killed as a precaution against potential food shortages and difficulties caring for animals during the war. This article explores the background and impact of this tragic incident.

Background of British Pet Holocaust

In anticipation of rationing and food scarcity during WWII, the British government formed the National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee (NARPAC). The committee worried that pet owners might struggle to feed their animals or share limited rations with them. To address this concern, NARPAC published a pamphlet titled “Advice to Animal Owners,” which suggested either moving pets to the countryside or humanely putting them to sleep if caring for them became impossible.

NARPAC’s Decision 

With the outbreak of war in 1939, many pet owners followed NARPAC’s advice and took drastic measures. Veterinary clinics and animal shelters were inundated with distraught owners seeking to euthanize their pets. Despite opposition from groups like the PDSA and RSPCA, who advocated for alternative solutions, the number of pet owners seeking assistance overwhelmed these organizations.

The bombing of London in September 1940 intensified the situation. This led even more pet owners to euthanize their animals.

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home involving 

Despite the prevailing trend, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home remained steadfast in caring for animals. Throughout the war, they cared for approximately 145,000 dogs. And also established a pet cemetery in Ilford, where they laid to rest around 500,000 animals.

The Duchess of Hamilton, an avid cat lover, opposed the pet killings. And advocated for the compassionate treatment of animals during wartime. She created her own sanctuary at Ferne, providing a safe haven for distressed animals.


The British Pet Holocaust was a tragic event during World War II, resulting in the euthanization of over 750,000 pets due to fears of food shortages. This somber chapter in history serves as a reminder of the difficult decisions people faced during times of crisis. Some organizations and individuals offered hope through their efforts to protect animals. However, the incident highlights the importance of compassionate treatment of animals even in challenging times.

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