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This essay examines the sociological contributions to anthrozoology, focusing on research from the United States that employs a symbolic interactionist perspective. In particular, the work of Arluke and Sanders highlights the importance of understanding the meanings that animals hold for people. Using a selective review of their research, this essay outlines how a focus on understanding meaning can inform anthrozoological research. Arluke’s research on animal abuse reveals how harm must be defined in context. Sanders’s research on canine–human relationships documents how people come to understand companion dogs as persons. Both bodies of work rely on careful observation and listening to those who interact with animals. The resulting insights hold methodological promise for anthrozoology.


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