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Dogmen the Rationalization Deviance, by Craig J. Forsythe, Rhonda D. Evans

Dogmen the Rationalization Deviance, by Craig J. Forsythe, Rhonda D. Evans

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Published by DogsBite.org
A&M University, Society & Animals Journal of Human-Animal Studies, Vol. 6 Number 3, 1998.

View more studies on the DogsBite.org Bibliographies page:
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A&M University, Society & Animals Journal of Human-Animal Studies, Vol. 6 Number 3, 1998.

View more studies on the DogsBite.org Bibliographies page:
http://www.dogsbite.org/bite-statistics-bibliographies.htm

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203Dogmen:TheRationalizationof DevianceCraigJ.Forsyth1UNIVERSITYOF SOUTHWESTERNLOUISIANARhondaD.EvansTEXAS A&M UNIVERSITYDogmenare individuals whofighttheirpitbulls in matchesagainstotherpitbulls.Thispaperusesneutralizationtheorytoexaminetherationalizationsof dogmenasthey attempttocounterstigmaand criminalidentityin a world that isbecoming increasinglyintolerantof dogfighting.To maintain theirrationalizations,thedogmenusefourrecurringtech-niques :(a)denialof injury;(b)condemnationof thecondemners;(c)appealtohigher loyalties;and(d)adefensethatsays dogmenaregoodpeople(theirdeviance-dogfighting expunged bytheirgoodcharacter).The authors conducted interviews with31individualswho fightand breedpitbulls andwithsignificantothers inthedogfighting enterprise,includingSociety forthe Preventionof Crueltyto Animals(SPCA)officials,veterin-arians,and local lawenforcement officers.The research also examinednewspaperaccountsof dogfighting.This articleprovidessomeinsightsinto thesocialconstructionof reality of individuals whoengagein anactivitythat mostof usfind reprehensible.As withanycriminal/deviantbehavior,understandingandsubsequent solving of the problem beginwithknowledge of theoffender'sperspective.Inadogfight,twodogsareputinto asquare pit,which measurestwelve, sixteen,ortwentyfeeton eachside. Thedogsfightuntil oneisdeclared the winner. Thereare two handlers and one referee in thepitwith thedogs. Spectatorssurroundthepit,the sides of which are wooden and three to four feethigh.Thedogfight beginswhenthe referee tells thehandlers topittheirdogs,at which timethedogsarereleased andattack.Once thefight begins,thespectators placebets with oneanother on whichdogwillwin.Thedogscontinuefightinguntil one of them makesa"turn,"whichis defined asturningtheheadand shouldersawayfromtheopponent.
 
204Once the referee calls theturn,the handlers then handletheirdogswhentheyare outof "holds,"which meanstheyare notbitingeach other. Thedogwho madetheturn must "scratch"tohisopponent.Scratchingis defined ascrossingthescratchline,which is drawninthe center of thepit,andattackingone'sopponentwithinaspecifiedamount of timeusually10to 30 seconds. If adogfailstoscratch,hisopponentis declared the winner. If the scratch issuccessfully completed,thefightcontinues. From thispointon thedogsarehandledonlywhentheyareout of holds,and thedogsarerequiredto scratch in turn. If adogfails toscratchinturn,he isdeclared theloser.Thefightmayendinone of fourways:(a)adog'sfailure toscratch;(b)theowner'scallingthefight (analogousto themanagerof a boxerthrowingthe towelintothering,asignalthat thefighterhasquit);(c)the death of oneorbothdogs,or(d)oneof thedogs jumpingthepit.Failure to scratch is the most commonwayinwhichafightends. Less common is the death of one of theopponents.The leastcommonendingis adog's jumpingthepit,whichmeansthedog literally jumpsoutof thepitin order toescapetheopponent.This israre becauseadogmanwillnotrisk humiliationby bringinga curdog(dogwhorefusestofight)toafight.Thedogwho jumpsthepitwillsurelydie at the hands of his owner.The American Pit Bull Terrier(APBT)is theexclusive breedemployedinpitfightsinthe United Statestoday.This breed has been bred over several hundredyearstoproduceadogwho has aninnateabilitytofightand overcome his victim.The APBT isspecificallybredtofight.Thepitbullisuniquein hisabsence of threatdisplayswhenfighting.Apitbullalmost never bareshisteeth,andrarelywill heraise the hair on his back. Whenfighting,thepitbull neithergrowlsnor barks. Thedogdoes notrearupandsnap.Rather,he takeshold, shakes,andpunisheswith hishold.Dogmencontend he wants tofightandfightstodamage(Matz, 1984).Thisabilityis found with suchvirility onlyin thisparticularbreed(Foran, 1994).MethodThe dataforthisstudywere obtainedthroughfield researchby usinginterviewswith,and observationsof,peoplewhoare,orwere,involvedindogfighting,includingthose who wereactivelyopposedto suchactivities. Interviews wereconducted with 31individualswhofightand breedpitbulls. Allof theparticipantshadbeen involved indogfightingfor severalyears.Three interviews were con-ducted with formerbreedersandfightersof pitbulls who nolonger participateinthesport.Interviewsrangedfrom2 to 4/2 hours. Theseinterviews were conductedatthepre-fight meetings,atthefights,or at the homes of dogfighters.Several
 
205informal interviews were conductedwithspectatorsand the wives of men whoparticipateindogfighting.Additional data were obtained from interviews withofficials of theSPCA,members of LegislationinSupportof Animals,(LISA),veterinarians,and local sheriff's officers. The research also examinednewspaperaccounts of those whosupportedand those whoopposed dogfighting.Observations and InterviewsThe research tookplacein severalparishesof Louisiana,recognizedby manyas thecenterof dogfightingin the UnitedStates,(Kent, 1982a)andincountiesof Mississippi.Observations tookplaceat14formaldogfights. Respondentswereidentifiedthrougha "snowball" methodandrepresentan availablesample.Theauthorsinterviewed all individuals whoagreedto bequestioned. Respondentswereasked about variousaspectsof dogfighting:the reasonsthey engageindogfightingandhowtheystarteddogfighting; techniques of breedingandtraining;thenegotia-tion of acontract;thefight;thesetting;the choice of asettingfor thefight;thetypesof dogsingeneralas well as thegreat fighting dogsof thepast; changesindogfighting;and the careerof afighting dog.Additionalquestionswere intendedto elicitresponsesabout the rationalizations and motivations usedby dogmenfortheir continuancein theseillegalactivities. Inaddition,therespondentswere askedabout their confrontations withresidents,law enforcement and humanesocietyofficials,as well as with otherdogfighters.Allquestionswere intended to beguidesforgleaninginformation,rather than forelicitingspecific responses.Thepurposesof thispaperwere to examine the neutralizationtechniquesdogmenuse astheyattemptto counterstigma,criminalidentity,and criticisms ina world that has becomeincreasinglyintolerant of dogfighting.First,a brief overview of neutralizationtheoryisgiven.Second,comments fromdogmenareframedwithinspecific techniquesof neutralization.Third,comments from thosewhooppose dogfightingare offered.Finally,thepaperextends a discussion of theconflict overdogfighting.?2NeutralizationTechniquesThe foundation for neutralizationtheorywas setby Sykesand Matza(1957)whentheydistinguishedfive defense mechanismsthroughwhichindividuals rationalizetheir deviant behavior.Techniquesof neutralization counter thenegative impactof deviant behavior.

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