Document Type


Publication Date



The research on organizational framing and the metaphor of institutional “thinking” highlight the ways that social problems organizations shape the ameliorative services they deliver. Social problems work then perpetuates representations of problems that may not match the conditions clients face. This study extends social problems literature to argue that organizations sometimes “think” differently about the problems they intend to solve than do persons involved with these problems in everyday life. Using ethnographic research and interviews, this article contrasts the way in which animal sheltering, as an institution, frames the problem of unwanted animals with how the public interprets that problem. Institutional “thinking” portrays pets as commitments for life, and shelters thus strive to offer resources that allow people to keep their animals in their homes. However, interviews reveal that most people simply want troublesome animals out of their homes. This mismatch of intentions sheds new light on the complexities of claims-making and social problems work. In particular, the “paradox of popularization” means that efforts to gain public support for definitions of social problems often ignore or exacerbate aspects of problems that do not fit institutional frames.