Home » Philosophy » Brute Force: Policing Animal Cruelty(2004)

Brute Force: Policing Animal Cruelty(2004)

2004 | 193 Pages | ISBN: 1557533504 | PDF | 15 MB

This is an insightful, analytically astute, balanced, and timely ethnographic study of humane law enforcement officers (the “animal police”). Suspended, as they are, between police officers and animal control workers, humane officers seek to safeguard the well-being and welfare of animals in a society where animal-human relationships are becoming ever more ubiquitous and ever more finely textured. Although this is not a “shock book,” I still found it disconcerting to read. One would assume (as I did prior to reading this book) that if someone has taken on the responsibility of owning a domesticated/farm animal or pet, that simple utilitarian motives would move that individual to at least minimally provide for that animal[s]. This, sadly, is not always the case. I also learned that legal constructs such as “abuse” and “cruelty” are not clear cut–whether that be in the field or in the courtroom. Arluke constructs this thoughtful examination around several themes and concepts, including the emotional socialization of humane officers as they move from the idealism of newly graduated rookies to the more nuanced perspective of senior officers. Perspectives toward the meaning of work can differ as Arluke found two occupational groupings in the humane officers he studied: (1) the “police-oriented officer” and the (2) “animal-inclined officers.” As reflected in their labels, the police-oriented officers identified more with the police and law enforcements aspects of their work while the animal-inclined officers were often younger, more likely to be female, and more often identified themselves as “animal people” and pet owners. I was most impressed with the work of humane officers as Arluke detailed the lengths to which these public servants would mediate with animal owners, the complainant and/or neighbors on behalf of animals. Officers bought pet food for poor owners, constructed shelters for trapped in the element animals. and went out of their way to defuse what can easily be extremely volatile situations (e.g., Humane Officer: “A complaint about animal abuse/neglect/cruelty has been made against you….” Animal Owner: “What stinking jerk said that? I want to know who that is–and now.” Most troublesome was the indifference displayed by court officials, (e.g., clerks, district attorneys and judges) when humane officers felt it was necessary to file criminal charges–usually only as a last resort by humane officers who are quite aware of their low stature and legitimacy on the court docket. It is discouraging to think how difficult it is to prove abuse or cruelty and how often the animal literally has to die or be unarguably maimed before justice can be served. This is a well written and easily digested book, with something for animal lovers (even animal tolerators), and for social scientists interested in understanding the nature and importance of human-animal relationships.