Navigating the role of responsibility: habitus, socialization, and human impact on animal welfare in a community
Nonhuman animals make up a large part of our society and social scientists are starting to acknowledge the fact that they should be incorporated into the fabric of the interdisciplinary studies which focus largely on humans. In an attempt to expand on the somewhat limited research regarding animals and society, the focus of this paper will pertain to dogs and cats – our most domesticated household pets – and how elements of habitus and socialization of individuals impacts the welfare of those animals within a community. From the theoretical perspective of Symbolic Interactionism, this study is important to the overall improvement of interaction between humans and animals, considering the fact that both inhabit the same spaces. The study takes place in San Antonio, Texas and a statistical analysis was conducted of a non-random sample of 187 respondents. Respondents answered surveys, participated in one-on-one interviews and/or a focus group. Results of the surveys, interviews, and focus group rendered supporting data indicating that aspects of habitus and socialization of individuals does impact the welfare of pets; however, ongoing socialization through education has a greater impact on improved welfare for animals. Sociologically, this study is important as it provides a fresh foundation of research, which is necessary to a healthier understanding of the relationships between humans and animals.