Brute Force: Animal Police and the Challenge of Cruelty

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Purdue University Press, 2004 - Nature - 175 pages
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Brute Force looks at people having the most contact with everyday animal abuse- humane law enforcement officers who are charged with enforcing anti-cruelty statutes. The author spent one year studying 30 "animal cops" and dispatchers in two large cities. Rookie animal cops think of them­selves as a brute force because they believe that they have legitimate authority to represent the interests of abused animals. They see themselves as a power for the helpless, a voice for the mute. On the job experience changes this view. As animal cops conduct their investiga­tions and prosecutions, they see how the public trivializes cruelty. Rather than "fighting the good fight" against egregious cases of cruelty, they are overwhelmed with complaints that are ambiguous and must be "stretched" to qualify as legally defined abuse or with complaints, such as barking dogs or "thin" pets, that are used in interpersonal disputes to get neighbors or spouses into trouble. Even more discouraging to officers are clear-cut and extreme cases of cruelty that do not lead to guilty verdicts or stiff penalties in court. Resulting cynicism is aggravated when rookies realize that they are seen as second-rate "wannabe" cops or closet animal "extremists." With little legitimate authority to enforce the law, animal cops become humane educators who try to make people into responsible pet owners. With few victories in court, they look for other ways to feel effective in their fight against cruelty. And with different preferences for doing police or animal work, their department culture tolerates both styles. Cynicism is replaced by humane realism.

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About the author (2004)

Linda Birke received her Ph.D in biology, specializing in animal behavior. She has also focused on the social studies of science, particularly from feminist perspectives, and has written extensively on these themes. Arnold Arluke is Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Northeastern University and Senior Scholar at Tufts University Center for Animals and Public Policy. He has published over 70 articles and eight books. Mike Michael is Professor of Sociology of Science and Technology at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He has a PhD in social psychology, and has written extensively on social psychology and social theory.

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