Department or Program

Environmental Studies


Since their presence in black communities became visible in the 1980s, pit bulls have been understood as aggressive and inherently violent.[1] In more modern rescue efforts there are often underlying intents to “save” pit bulls from their association with black and low- income identities. By encouraging a type of pit bull activism that depends on relocation into white, suburban homes, pit bull activists perpetuate racist ideas about who is a savior, and who needs to be saved. Through this paper I hope to show the ways animals’ bodies are used as symbols of the right way to be.[2] Rather than choosing pit bull activism that depends on white salvation, I will promote activism that instead is centered on a logic of healing with and support. The act of “healing with” is meant to show how intimate acts of being with an animal creates a space in which both the identities of pit bulls and low-income/black communities will benefit from co-creating a joint identity. In a logic of support, I hope to promote recognition of the ways that racial oppression has created barriers to animal ownership in low-income communities. In doing this I will suggest that activist groups do work to support the continued ownership of animals in communities of color, by providing aid such as veterinary services. In healing with and encouraging animal companionship in communities of color I hope to avoid narratives of white salvation, that reinforce racial anxieties about African American identities.

[1] Bronwen Dickey, Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon (New York: Random House, 2016), 130-146.

[2] Weaver, Harlan. “‘Becoming in Kind’: Race, Class, Gender, and Nation in Cultures of Dog Rescue and Dogfighting.” American Quarterly 65, no. 3 (2013).

Level of Access

Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access

First Advisor

Jane Costlow

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file


Available to Bates community via local IP address or Bates login.