The domestication of animals changed the course of human history. But what are the consequences for these animals who have abandoned their wild existence in exchange for our care and protection? Domestication has proven to be a wildly successful survival strategy, but this success has not been without its drawbacks. A modern dairy cow’s daily energy output equals that of a Tour de France rider. Feral cats overpopulate urban areas. And our methods of breeding horses and dogs have resulted in debilitating and sometimes lethal genetic diseases. But these problems and more can be addressed, if we have the will and the compassion. Human values and choices determine an animal’s lot in life even before he or she is born. Just as a sculptor’s hands shape clay, so human values shape our animals—for good and or evil. The little-examined, yet omnipresent act of breeding lies at the core of Gavin Ehringer’s eye-opening book.

Award-winning journalist Gavin Ehringer is a former cowboy, a horseman, and a dog trainer. He’s written for a wide range of animal publications, including Western Horseman, The Chronicle of the Horse, Dog Fancy, Dogster, and is the author of five animal-related books over a career that spans thirty years. He lives in Colorado Springs.