Alexander, S., & Quinn, M. (2012). Portrayal of Interactions Between Humans and Coyotes (Canis latrans): Content Analysis of Canadian Print Media (1998-2010). Cities and the Environment (CATE).
Print media is one form of public discourse that provides a means to examine human-coyote interactions. We conducted a content analysis of 453 articles addressing coyote events reported in the Canadian print media between 1998 and 2010. We found 119 articles about human-coyote interactions, of which 32 involved a report of coyote biting (26) or attempting to bite (6) a person. 108 articles were about coyote-dogs and 32 about coyotes-cat interactions. Remaining articles were on topics unrelated to interactions (e.g. culls). Basing our analysis in grounded theory, we identified important descriptive and emotional themes surrounding these events. The most common words describing coyotes were: brazen, wiley, mangy, nuisance, wild and vicious. Interactions were described as attacks in 185 articles, while only 32 “attacks” were identified. Coyotes were portrayed as not natural in cities, as an invasive species, and more recently using language depicting criminal behaviour. Descriptions of coyotes killing or attacking people were inflammatory (e.g. savaged, ripped juts open), whereas descriptions of people killing coyotes were not (e.g. euthanized). Five emotional responses emerged describing humans involved in coyote interactions. Of these, statements of fear were most prevalent and yielded the richest understanding of perceptions about the risk of coyote-human interactions, including: fear for children’s safety (73), fear for disease (44), fear for pet safety (43), and fear for self or others safety (35). Traumatic response was reported in 28 articles, while sadness and grief were described in 17. Two other themes were: 1) animal welfare concerns, 2) frustration due to lack of agency response. Popular media plays a critical role in shaping public understanding and can influence people’s emotional experiences, perceptions and management consequences. We highlight that coyotes are prejudiced (and stereotyped) based on the isolated and sensationalized incidents. Coyotes in particular elicit a wide range of emotional responses in people, and there is often a wide gap between perception and reality of risk when understanding whether it is possible for humans and coyotes to co-exist. Hence, there is a strong need for media literacy about the unintended or intended maligning of coyotes to the general public, as the consequence can be social amplification of risk and the unwarranted persecution of coyotes.
Atkins, P. (2012). Animal Cities: Beastly Urban Histories. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing.
Animal Cities builds upon a recent surge of interest about animals in the urban context. Considering animals in urban settings is now a firmly established area of study and this book presents a number of valuable case studies that illustrate some of the perspectives that may be adopted. Having an ‘urban history’ flavour, the book follows a fourfold agenda. First, the opening chapters look at working and productive animals that lived and died in nineteenth-century cities such as London, Edinburgh and Paris. The argument here is that their presence yields insights into evolving understandings of the category ‘urban’ and what made a good city. Second, there is a consideration of nineteenth-century animal spectacles, which influenced contemporary interpretations of the urban experience. Third, the theme of contested animal spaces in the city is explored further with regard to backyard chickens in suburban Australia. Finally, there is discussion of the problem of the public companion animal and its role in changing attitudes to public space, illustrated with a chapter on dog-walking in Victorian and Edwardian London. Animal Cities makes a significant contribution to animal studies and is of interest to historical geographers, urban, cultural, social and economic historians and historians of policy and planning.
Benson, E. (2013). The Urbanization of the Eastern Gray Squirrel in the United States. Journal of American History 100 (3), 691–710.
The article discusses the introduction of gray squirrels into American cities beginning in the mid-nineteenth century through to the early-twentieth century. Topics considered include human-animal relationships, anthropomorphism, popular attitudes towards squirrels as neighborhood pets or pests, and public opinions regarding cruelty to park squirrels.
One of my goals in the article was to show that the presence of these ubiquitous and highly visible mammals in North American cities was the result of a very intentional, sustained, and widespread project of late-nineteenth-century urban reformers and nature enthusiasts. It was not an accidental or “natural” process in any conventional sense of the term, although it was also not purely a human project. Squirrels too were crucial participants.
Many of the urban residents who released, fed, sheltered, and protected gray squirrels thought that by doing so they were beautifying the city and elevating the moral character of the community (as well as entertaining themselves). Even though the ideas about charity and community that they held have since largely been discarded in favor of an ecological perspective, the squirrels remain, in part due to their remarkable capacity to adapt to a changing urban environment.
Biehler, D. (2013). Pests in the City: Flies, Bedbugs, Cockroaches, and Rats. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
From tenements to alleyways to latrines, twentieth-century American cities created spaces where pests flourished and people struggled for healthy living conditions. In Pests in the City, Dawn Day Biehler argues that the urban ecologies that supported pests were shaped not only by the physical features of cities but also by social inequalities, housing policies, and ideas about domestic space.
Community activists and social reformers strived to control pests in cities such as Washington, DC, Chicago, Baltimore, New York, and Milwaukee, but such efforts fell short when authorities blamed families and neighborhood culture for infestations rather than attacking racial segregation or urban disinvestment. Pest-control campaigns tended to target public or private spaces, but pests and pesticides moved readily across the porous boundaries between homes and neighborhoods.
This story of flies, bedbugs, cockroaches, and rats reveals that such creatures thrived on lax code enforcement and the marginalization of the poor, immigrants, and people of color. As Biehler shows, urban pests have remained a persistent problem at the intersection of public health, politics, and environmental justice, even amid promises of modernity and sustainability in American cities.
Brandow, M (2008). New York's Poop Scoop Law: Dogs, the Dirt, and Due Process. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press.
It's hard to imagine eight million people trying to avoid dog refuse on the streets of New York City on a daily basis. Likewise, it's harder not to imagine New Yorkers from all walks of life picking up after their canines. Using plastic bags or trendy, mechanized devices, pet owners have become a unified force in cleaning up the sidewalks of the Big Apple. Not long ago, picking up after your Poodle, Puli, or Pekinese was not a basic civic duty. Initially, many politicians thought the idea was absurd. Animal rights activists were unanimously opposed. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals condemned the proposed legislation because it would impose undue hardship on dog owners. New York's Poop Scoop Law chronicles the integration of dog owners, a much-maligned subculture, into mainstream society by tracing the history of the legislation that the York's City Council shelved twice before, then Mayor Ed Koch was forced to go to the state level for support. Brandow shows how a combination of science and politics, fact and fear, altruism and self-interest led to the adoption and enforcement of legislation that became a shining success.
McShane, C., & Tarr, J. (2007). The horse in the city: living machines in the nineteenth century. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.
The nineteenth century was the golden age of the horse. In urban America, the indispensable horse provided the power for not only vehicles that moved freight, transported passengers, and fought fires but also equipment in breweries, mills, foundries, and machine shops.
Clay McShane and Joel A. Tarr, prominent scholars of American urban life, here explore the critical role that the horse played in the growing nineteenth-century metropolis. Using such diverse sources as veterinary manuals, stable periodicals, teamster magazines, city newspapers, and agricultural yearbooks, they examine how the horses were housed and fed and how workers bred, trained, marketed, and employed their four-legged assets. Not omitting the problems of waste removal and corpse disposal, they touch on the municipal challenges of maintaining a safe and productive living environment for both horses and people and the rise of organizations like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
In addition to providing an insightful account of life and work in nineteenth-century urban America, The Horse in the City brings us to a richer understanding of how the animal fared in this unnatural and presumably uncomfortable setting.
Velten, H. (2013). Beastly London: A History of Animals in the City. London: Reaktion Books.
Beastly London explores the complex and changing relationship between Londoners of all backgrounds and their animal neighbours, and reveals how animals helped to shape the city’s economic, social and cultural history
Horse-drawn cabs rattling through the streets, terrified cattle being herded along congested thoroughfares to Smithfield market, pigs squealing and grunting in back yards – London was once filled with a cacophony of animal noises (and smells). But over the last thirty years, the city seems to have finally banished animals from its streets, apart from a few well-loved beasts such as the ravens at the Tower of London and the shire horses that pull the Lord Mayor’s golden coach.
Londoners once shared their homes with all kinds of animals – pets, livestock and vermin – and the streets were full of horses, cattle and the animal entertainers that performed to passers-by. Animals from all corners of the globe were imported through London’s docks and exotic beasts became popular attractions at venues such as the Zoological Gardens or lived in the private menageries of kings and naturalists. The city’s residents were entertained by performing fleas, mathematically gifted horses and dancing bears, as well as more bloodthirsty pursuits such as shooting and dog- and cockfights. In the Victorian age the city, not before time, became the birthplace of animal welfare societies and animal rights campaigns. Yet just as conditions gradually improved for the beasts of London, markets, slaughterhouses and dairies began to be moved to the suburbs, and the automobile eventually replaced the horse. The number of resident animals fell, and they are no longer a large part of everyday life in the capital – apart from a stalwart few, such as pets, pigeons and pests.