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Dogs and the criminology of control: A case study of contemporary policy making in England and Wales

Lawson, Claire 2019. Dogs and the criminology of control: A case study of contemporary policy making in England and Wales. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis explores the nexus of criminology and public policy analysis in order to better understand and explain the policy making processes in relation to the control of dogs in society. It does this through an empirical study of policy responses to the phenomenon of ‘status’ and ‘dangerous’ dogs in England and Wales, primarily during the past three decades. An influential body of work has suggested an expanding trend in punitiveness within Western societies over the past few decades. At the forefront of sociological thinking in this field is David Garland’s Culture of Control that theorises that the advent of late-modernity, with its adjusted macro-social conditions, has ushered in this new approach to law and order. As a theoretical scaffold, grand theories such as these can be useful, but this case study also seeks to go further into the empirical particulars of policy making in order to understand how a culture of control unfolds in relation to the lesser-explored arena of dangerous dogs. The methodological elements employed were two-fold and included both an extensive documentary analysis (including academic work, policy documents and legislation) recounted via a history of the present, and a thematic analysis produced from the empirical data of key policy actors' accounts (involving a programme of semi-structured elite interviews, n=25) gained via my unique insider-researcher access as a professional member of the dog policy network. Findings suggest that widespread anxieties regarding the threat to public safety posed by dangerous dogs, have been addressed via draconian legislative measures, most notably breed specific legislation (BSL) designed to manipulate and control the dog population. Evidence that BSL and other control measures are not working, and that substitute harms are befalling dog owners and their pets, have been obscured by competition and ‘white noise’ within a chaotic policy network. Public debate, fuelled by high profile and disproportionate media stories, has intrinsically linked dangerous dogs with other risky, criminal and anti-social behaviours. This ‘othering’, coupled with expressive, symbolic and politicised policy making, has resulted in an overly-punitive culture of control for dogs and their owners in society.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 31 October 2019
Last Modified: 28 Jul 2020 01:28

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