Youths in gangs choose dogs for socializing, companionship

Washington: A study has found that youths in groups or gangs choose to own dogs primarily for socializing and companionship, and not only for protection and enhancing status.

The research was carried out by Jennifer Maher and Harriet Pierpoint from the Centre for Criminology at the University of Glamorgan in the UK.

Youth criminal and antisocial behaviour using these dogs has been widely reported in urban areas, but to date, the evidence to support a link between youth dog ownership and criminality is inconclusive.

Maher and Pierpoint explored the relationship between youth groups, gangs, their culture and their dogs and looked at the implications for dog owners and their community, as well as for the dogs themselves.

Companionship and socialization with friends were the main reasons youths identified for their ownership. Interestingly, practitioners did not highlight these functions for dogs when talking about why youths kept dogs.

Both youths and practitioners also reported that dogs were kept for protection and enhancing youth’s perceived “tough” and “powerful” status.

“Dogs serve intrinsic functions - in other words, the dogs are companions and are part of a social group,” the authors said.

“But they also serve extrinsic functions - the dogs are used as accessories and weapons and are often neglected and abused. Although inherently conflicting, youths did not recognize this paradox,” they added.

The findings have been published online in Springer’s journal Crime, Law and Social Change.