Just a Dog: Understanding Animal Cruelty and Ourselves

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Psychiatrists define cruelty to animals as a psychological problem or personality disorder. Legally, animal cruelty is described by a list of behaviors. In Just a Dog, Arnold Arluke argues that our current constructs of animal cruelty are decontextualized-imposed without regard to the experience of the groups committing the act. Yet those who engage in animal cruelty have their own understandings of their actions and of themselves as actors. In this fascinating book, Arluke probes those understandings and reveals the surprising complexities of our relationships with animals.

Just a Dog draws from interviews with more than 250 people, including humane agents who enforce cruelty laws, college students who tell stories of childhood abuse of animals, hoarders who chronically neglect the welfare of many animals, shelter workers who cope with the ethics of euthanizing animals, and public relations experts who use incidents of animal cruelty for fundraising purposes. Through these case studies, Arluke shows how the meaning of "cruelty" reflects and helps to create identities and ideologies.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Arluke (Regarding Animals), an authority on animal cruelty, believes that in order to formulate effective programs and policies to combat such behavior, society must have an in-depth understanding of why people mistreat or neglect animals and of the cultural and social factors that encourage abuse. In this dense and overly long sociological study, he reports on the results of interviews with five groups of people: law enforcement agents who investigate incidents of abuse, adolescent animal abusers, animal hoarders, animal shelter workers (including those who must sometimes euthanize animals as well as those who believe no animal should ever be killed) and public relations experts who use animal cruelty as a marketing tool for fund-raising and education. Arluke examines the experiences and motivations of each group and reflects on how individuals think about their actions-whether cruel or humane-and use them to create identities for themselves. Wisely, the author keeps passages describing specific examples of cruelty to a minimum, and he refrains from making moral judgments. But Arluke's academic approach and language are off-putting, thwarting his objective of stimulating discussion and debate among the general public about the nature of animal cruelty and the importance of finding new ways to deal with it. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.\
Library Journal
Arluke (senior scholar, Tufts Ctr. for Animals & Public Policy; Brute Force: Animal Police and the Challenge of Cruelty) explores here the definition of animal cruelty and the psychology of those who deal with it or perpetrate it. For this study he interviewed more than 250 people: humane law enforcement police, animal care and control agents, shelter workers, animal hoarders (those who pathologically collect more animals than they can care for), and teenagers who engage in animal abuse. He poses and attempts to answer many questions. Do teens who abuse animals ultimately display violent behavior toward humans? How do humane law enforcement agents interpret animal cruelty laws and achieve compliance? How do such officers define themselves and their roles? How do hoarders view themselves, and how does the media depict them-and the inhumane conditions their "rescued" animals endure? How do workers in "no-kill" and "open admission" shelters view each others' work? Arluke's descriptions are graphic and heart-wrenching. His scholarly work is recommended for social science collections in academic libraries.-Florence Scarinci, Nassau Community Coll. Lib., Garden City, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.\
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592134724
  • Publisher: Temple University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2006
  • Series: Animals, Culture, and Society Ser.
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 529,005
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction : just a dog 1
1 Agents : feigning authority 21
2 Adolescents : appropriating adulthood 55
3 Hoarders : shoring up self 85
4 Shelter workers : finding authenticity 115
5 Marketers : celebrating community 147
Conclusion : cruelty is good to think 183
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