Argues that animal cruelty must be understood in terms of social relationships, as actively used by social groups to achieve sought-after identities. The author situates cruelty in situations where groups of people decide, on their own terms, what constitutes the wrongful harm of animals and how best to communicate their understanding to others. He captures how law enforcement agents, shelter workers, humane marketers, the general public, and animal abusers (or neglecters), make sense of animal cruelty. In each case, cruelty's meaning reflects the practical, personal, and ideological concerns of these groups and the wider social and cultural confusion over the nature and significance of animals and their proper treatment. He shows that these divergent definitions are not mere reflections of the social world but are actively created and used by group members to achieve sought-after identities.
Introduction: Just a Dog; One- Agents: Feigning Authority; Two- Adolescents: Appropriating Adulthood; Three- Hoarders: Shoring Up Self; Four- Shelter Workers: Finding Authenticity; Five- Marketers: Celebrating Community; Conclusion : Cruelty is Good to Think
This is an important and thoughtful book--though I will remember a few scenes described in it with horror for some time.--BBC WILDLIFE November 2006 "Arluke explores here the definition of animal cruelty and the psychology of those who deal with it or perpetrate it. Arluke's descriptions are graphic and heart-wrenching. [T]his scholarly work is recommended." Library Journal "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. Wisely, the author keeps passages describing specific examples of cruelty to a minimum, and he refrains from making moral judgments." Publishers Weekly "Arluke has produced...an expertly researched study of animal cruelty and its human connections--those who care for animals as well as those who commit unspeakably cruel acts against them. Arluke is perceptive and mostly insightful in this comprehensive study...This is a significant and crucial achievement." Abolitionist-online "Just a Dog by Arnold Arluke is not just another book on animal cruelty--far from it. A well-written analysis...sociological in the best sense of the word... This study contributes to an understanding not just of animal cruelty, but of how animal cruelty, its participants, and their interpretations of, and responses to, cruelty tell us much about ourselves as individuals, as well as our relationships with others, both human and animal." Anthrozoos "Through courageous research Arluke set aside his judgment to explore how abusers see their behavior. He has given us a sociological understanding of animal abuse that recognizes the situational quality of cruelty and its ability to shape identity...In Just a Dog, Arnold Arluke uses cruelty to raise questions about what it means to be human. He also adds to our understanding of the complex and conflicting ways we humans regard other animals." Contemporary Sociology July 2007