Managing the Stigma of Outlaw Breeds: A Case Study of Pit Bull Owners

In: Society & Animals
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  • 1 Tufts Center for Animals and Pubic Policy
  • 2 Tufts Center for Animals and Pubic Policy
  • 3 Tufts Center for Animals and Pubic Policy

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Abstract

Ethnographic interviews were conducted with 28 pit bull "owners" to explore the sociological experience of having a dog with a negative image. Results indicate that the vast majority of respondents felt that these dogs were stigmatized because of their breed. Respondents made this conclusion because friends, family, and strangers were apprehensive in the presence of their dogs and because they made accusations about the breed's viciousness and lack of predictability. In the face of this stigma, respondents resorted to using a variety of interactional strategies to lessen the impact of this perception or prevent it from occurring. These strategies included passing their dogs as breeds other than pit bulls, denying that their behavior is biologically determined, debunking adverse media coverage, using humor, emphasizing counter-stereotypical behavior, avoiding stereotypical equipment or accessories, taking preventive measures, or becoming breed ambassadors.

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