Academic Thesis Analyzes Impact of Breed-Specific Legislation in Windsor

Lauren Joy Sharpley, “Total Pit Bull Shit: Anomie and Breed Specific Legislation in Windsor, Ontario” (2023) Electronic Theses and Dissertations 8923.

Abstract: This study employs Durkheimian sociology, anomie in particular, to examine breed-specific legislation in Windsor, Ontario. This thesis is unique in that it analyses breed-specific legislation (BSL) in a way that has not been done previously, by applying a rigorous, sociological theory perspective. Other than discussions on totemism and limited discussions of animals, previous applications of Durkheim’s theories on anomie, morality and law have not focused on human-animal relationships, especially the relationship between humans and companion dogs. Human animal studies (HAS) and critical animal studies (CAS) literature has not employed the Durkheimian concept of anomie to understand human-animal relationships and BSL specifically. I conceptualize anomie as a social condition resulting from moral derangement and the overabundance of conflicting moral rules, how they are understood and applied that results in a lack of stable moral references. This conceptualization of anomie guides my analysis of the provincial Dog Owners’ Liability Act R.S.O. 1990, CHAPTER D.16 (DOLA) and the municipal By-law 245-2004 (BL-245). I use the DOLA and the BL-245 to analyse how obligations and sanctions are imposed upon humans and animals, while looking for evidence of anomic social relations. The findings of this thesis indicate that there are discrepancies in the collective consciousnesses, law, science, and the general public. It also articulates how risk and responsibility impact human-animal relationships. Finally, this study exemplifies how breed-specific legislation destabilizes the epistemic reference of what makes a dog a dog.