Posted on August 2, 2021

Academics Say Fear of Pit Bulls Is Linked to… Racism?

Robert Schmad, Campus Reform, July 26, 2021

The Animal Farm Foundation, a non-profit “dedicated to securing equal treatment and opportunity for ‘pit bull’ dogs and their owners”, has launched a new initiative to combat “exclusionary dog breed restrictions in the housing insurance industry.”

In its statement, the AFF cites the work of Ann Linder, a Legislative Policy Fellow with Harvard Law School’s Animal Law and Policy Program. According to her paper, “The Black Man’s Dog: The Social Context of Breed Specific Legislation”, pit bulls have been unfairly tied to “gang violence by urban youths, as well as the hip-hop music scene.”

Also referenced is the work of Emory University associate professor of philosophy, Erin Tarver. In her work “The Dangerous Individual(’s) Dog: Race, Criminality and the ‘Pit Bull’,” Tarver applies French philosopher Michel Focault’s notion of “the dangerous individual” to what she sees as modern racialized attitudes towards pit bulls and the “perceived threat to normative whiteness” such animals pose.

Despite accounting for just 6.5% of all dogs in the United States, pit bulls were responsible for 66% of total fatal dog attacks between 2005 and 2017.

Tying the societal perception of pit bulls to anti-Black racism has become a theme in certain American academic circles.

Harlan Weaver, a professor of gender, women and sexuality studies at Kansas State University, gave a talk at Lafayette College last fall about how racial prejudice has driven the negative perception of pit bulls. The college’s student paper states that his work focuses on “racialization, using this interspecies intersectionality to ‘identify troubling dynamics and inheritances…but also to disrupt what is a very common logic in animal advocacy, in which racism is simultaneously engaged and erased through appropriative and substitutive moves.’”


A wealth of papers, studies and books have been published by academics dealing with how racism allegedly influences our perception of pit bulls.

Stacey Coleman, Executive Director of the AFF, told Campus Reform that the practice of singling out pit bulls in this way is “steeped in the insurance history of redlining.” Coleman argued that there is a perception that racial minorities tend to own pit bulls and that by denying insurance to pit bull owners, policy makers may be acting on that perception and implicitly discouraging minorities from moving to a given area.