Tough dogs not merely gang weapons

Jun 16, 2011

Youths in groups or gangs choose to own dogs primarily for socializing and companionship. Dogs are also used for protection and enhancing status, but to a lesser extent, contrary to popular perception. The research by Jennifer Maher and Harriet Pierpoint from the Centre for Criminology at the University of Glamorgan in the UK, is published online in Springer's journal Crime, Law and Social Change.

There is rising concern in the UK over irresponsible dog ownership, and the use of so-called status or weapon dogs, by street-based youth groups. Youth criminal and using these dogs has been widely reported in urban areas. However, to date, the evidence to support a link between youth dog ownership and criminality is inconclusive and fails to consider the possible positive and beneficial relationship between youth and dog.

Maher and Pierpoint explored the relationship between youth groups, gangs, their culture and their dogs and looked at the implications for and their community, as well as for the dogs themselves. In this pilot project, the authors shadowed youth workers in multiple locations across a South Wales city, to recruit and give a voice to hard-to-reach youth dog owners. They interviewed 25 youths in total and seven and youth practitioners, including a vet, a dog warden, and a youth offending team warden.

All youths identified themselves as being part of a group and over half belonged to a youth gang. The majority owned a dog and over half the dogs were bull breeds. Companionship and with friends were the main reasons youths identified for their ownership. Interestingly, practitioners did not highlight these functions for dogs when talking about why youths kept dogs.

Both youths and practitioners also reported that dogs were kept for protection and enhancing youth's perceived 'tough' and 'powerful' status. Some youths also used dogs as weapons to either defend themselves or for dog fighting. The authors identified more than 20 types of animal abuse towards dogs and other small animals perpetrated by young people.

The authors conclude: "Dogs serve intrinsic functions - in other words, the dogs are companions and are part of a social group. But they also serve extrinsic functions - the are used as accessories and weapons and are often neglected and abused. Although inherently conflicting, youths did not recognize this paradox."

Explore further: Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

More information: Maher J & Pierpoint H (2011). Friends, status symbols and weapons: the use of dogs by youth groups and youth gangs. Crime, Law and Social Change; DOI 10.1007/s10611-011-9294-5

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Dog 'laugh' silences other dogs

Dec 05, 2005

Washington state researchers report discovering what might be the sound of dog laughter. The scientists say the long, loud pant they recorded has a calming or soothing effect on the behavior of other dogs, ABC News reported.

Penn State studies storm-phobic canines

Dec 15, 2005

Penn State University researchers have determined pet owners can't resolve storm phobia in their dogs, but having a multi-dog home may reduce stress.

Computer savvy canines

Nov 28, 2007

Like us, our canine friends are able to form abstract concepts. Friederike Range and colleagues from the University of Vienna in Austria have shown for the first time that dogs can classify complex color photographs and ...

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

TAz00
not rated yet Jun 18, 2011
Could we all agree that you should have some sort of license to be able to own a dog?

More news stories

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.