Date of Award

December 2014

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Robert Wilson


animal control, animal welfare, dogs, pets, Syracuse

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


This thesis contributes to the growing interest in animals in geography. Specifically, it situates pets within the geographic literature and addresses the causes and consequences of pet love in the United States. Using Syracuse, New York as a case study, this thesis illuminates the critical yet understudied existence of pets in the city, paying particular attention to the historical and contemporary foundations, management, and geographies of surplus dogs. Further, it explores major shifts in Americans' attitudes toward pets over the last two centuries, details the necessity for and establishment of animal management in the city, and explains the consequences (namely, euthanasia) of the flawed animal management system in Syracuse. While animal control and welfare have improved since the nineteenth century, Syracuse has not resolved its issues facing animal management for two reasons. First, modern animal control and welfare are rooted in historical practices. Although Americans' attitudes toward animals have changed drastically since the nineteenth century, the way humans manage animals today is much the same as in the past, pointing to larger structural and systemic intractabilities. Second, many organizations are involved in animal management in Syracuse. Tensions among these organizations make for unproductive working conditions and limit the possibility of change.


Open Access