Understanding Non-Human and Human Animal Relationships in American Society
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In my home of Austin, Texas there is a street known as “the drag” where transient homeless youth congregate, often with one or more canines in tow. Locals disparagingly refer to these youth as “drag rats,” due to their downtrodden appearance and sometimes aggressive “spanging,” slang for asking for spare change or food. I often wonder how these young people and their canine companions survive on the streets.
In the book, My Dog Always Eats First: Homeless People and their Animals, Leslie Irvine investigates this very question and attempts to reconcile public perceptions of homeless pet owners with the reality of their lived experiences. Her work contributes to a growing sociological literature on the relationships between non-human animals and “homeless” or “non-domiciled” human animals (whom I refer to in this review as homeless individuals). Irvine asserts the need to understand the social value and contributions of non-human animals to society and to extend studies of them beyond...