My dog's the champ: an analysis of young people in urban settings and fighting dog breeds

  • Saffron Burley Goldsmiths, University of London

Abstract

There is a growing phenomenon of young people in urban areas owning fighting dog breeds, such as Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and English Bull Terriers. Many people find these youths and their dogs threatening, and many more are concerned that the dogs are being trained to fight, and to deliberately intimidate. As well as the perception of these young people as a threat, there is also a host of anti-cruelty sentiments directed at them. The purpose of this exploration is to examine the origins and characteristics of this phenomenon and the societal responses in regards to it, especially in the context of wider society's historical tendency to assume the worst of this particular group, and the way that many dominant views on this issue echo typical "moral panic" anxieties. I hope to also reveal the extent of more subtle needs and nuances in the behaviour of these young people and the deeper motivations behind their choice to own and train fighting dog breeds, by using a more sensitive, ethnographic approach to flesh out the picture. I will then apply the understanding gained from this exploration to inform my understanding of the challenges and considerations facing youth and community work in regards to young people, highlighting our aim as youth workers to link our work to broader issues of inequality in society.

Author Biography

Saffron Burley, Goldsmiths, University of London
Saffron Burley did her MA in Applied Anthropology in Youth and Community Work in 2006 at Goldsmiths. She chose to write her dissertation on the subject of young people and fighting dog breeds after four years' experience in youth work in North Kensington, London, where she first became aware of the phenomenon. Since completing her MA she has been working with young people helping them to complete the Duke of Edinburgh Award in Kensington and Chelsea. She can be contacted saffronburley(AT)ntlworld.com