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Framing ‘Friend’: Media Framing of ‘Man’s Best Friend’ and the Pattern of Police Shootings of Dogs

Department of Sociology, California State University, Fullerton, CA 92831, USA
Department of Sociology & Human Services, University of North Georgia, Dahlonega, GA 30597, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Soc. Sci. 2019, 8(4), 107;
Received: 16 February 2019 / Revised: 21 March 2019 / Accepted: 26 March 2019 / Published: 2 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue We Are Best Friends: Animals in Society)
PDF [274 KB, uploaded 2 April 2019]


The representation and framing of events by news sources plays a critical role in the way society comes to understand a given phenomenon. For example, the use of force by police officers against civilians is covered regularly by news media outlets. Far less widely examined, however, is the excessive use of force against companion animals or pets. Thus, to understand the ways in which police use of force against animals is framed in the media, we conducted qualitative content analyses of 189 print news articles published in diverse regions of the U.S. over the course of a six-year period (2011–2016). Drawing on symbolic interactionism, analysis reveals that the media’s representation of incidents of police shootings of dogs speaks not only to the social value dogs have in society, but also to the acceptability of friendships between humans and dogs. Specifically, we argue that some dog–human relationships are more socially acceptable than others and, therefore, shootings against some dogs are perceived as less acceptable than others. Ultimately, we find that news media representation and the ways in which incidents are framed reify existent social hierarchies. This research contributes to growing bodies of literature on police violence, the shift in perspectives on animals in society, and the power of the media to affect public perception of incidents. View Full-Text
Keywords: dog–human friendship; companion animals; interspecies hierarchy; media and crime dog–human friendship; companion animals; interspecies hierarchy; media and crime
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Thacker Thomas, D.; Vermilya, J.R. Framing ‘Friend’: Media Framing of ‘Man’s Best Friend’ and the Pattern of Police Shootings of Dogs. Soc. Sci. 2019, 8, 107.

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