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Published as Chapter 8 in Policing Cities: Urban Securitization and Regulation in a 21st Century World, Randy K. Lippert & Kevin Walby, eds.

“I don’t worry about the four-legged animals,” Officer Armatys tells me as I scramble to catch up when he enters a backyard with a fierce-looking dog. “It’s the two-legged animals I am concerned about.” I interviewed Officer Armatys twice, first in his office in the Erie County’s Society for the Protection of Animals (ESPCA) and, a few months later, on a ride-along during a routine workday. Based on these encounters and numerous others with members of the ESPCA and with city administrators of animal control, this essay conveys bits and pieces of the story of how the City of Buffalo polices its nonhuman population. Specifically, I focus on the regulation and enforcement of dog laws in the city, what I refer to as “legal tails.” I argue that although seemingly enacted to control dogs, animal laws and ordinances are very much a way to monitor and control the conduct of humans. In the city, human-animal relations are expressed, regulated, and surveilled more closely than anywhere else. Animal laws instruct us which animals are allowed into the city and under what conditions. More than regulating the everyday of urban life as it pertains to animals, humans, and the interrelations thereof, such laws and their enforcement help define the very essence of the city. Indeed, such regulations and systems of surveillance define not only the limits of human conduct, but also the limits of the city itself. Through its distinct matrix of animal-human relationships, the city is distinguished from its significant other, the country, where a different set of animal-human relations is permitted to take place.

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Dog laws, critical animal studies, city and country, animal geographies, policing the city, legal ethnography, law and geography, human governance through animals, ESPCA, surveillance, animal laws and regulations, humane inspection


Criminology | Law | Sociology

Legal Tails: Policing American Cities through Animals