Kerry, Anthrozoology research student, talks about her experiences as a distance learning PhD student and her research on greyhound racing.
I’ve always felt a special connection with non-human animals and my undergraduate degree was in Animal Science back on 2001, although I then spent many years working in non-profits primarily with vulnerable and marginalised humans in London. After a decided relocation to more rural living and subsequent career change in 2013, I embarked on the MA in Anthrozoology at Exeter and utilised this rich learning to help frame my ‘on the ground’ practice of caring for ex-racing greyhounds. During my Masters, I wrote almost exclusively about the lives of these dogs and their human caregivers and developed a narrative that continues to morph and grow. Having achieved the Masters with distinction in 2016, I was keen to continue to focus my energy on applied anthrozoological endeavours that matter to me and so commenced my PhD research in September 2017.
This PhD is a social change project. Its main aim is to effect a change to the thinking and ‘knowing’ about racing and ex-racing greyhounds, which can then be used to improve their current care practices in kennel and companion spaces. A further aim is to increase the mattering of racing greyhounds; to bring these dogs, whose lives are often hidden in plain sight, into the public consciousness. In this respect, this study will re-situate greyhounds as dogs, culturally and socially embracing them as individuals of the species Canis familiaris, thus bringing change to their identities as aggregate racing commodities.
Utilising a cultural feminist 'ethics of care' theoretical lens, this project will examine relationships between human caregivers and greyhounds in both racing and rescue settings. Through a multisite qualitative study in the UK, it will also seek to narrate greyhound experience by situating greyhounds as individual subjective agents, utilising animal studies discourse which prioritises and recognises non-human animals as central to studies about their lives. Therefore, this project has both short-term animal welfare and long-term cultural change impacts.
As someone who has now worked in greyhound rescue and rehoming settings for the past 4 years, I will seek to 'know' greyhound experience by utilising my status as an industry 'insider', creating biographical narratives of individual greyhounds in racing and companion settings. In addition to having broad aspirational aims around increasing mattering, this project seeks to provide practical insight and remedy to deficits in knowledge and understanding around certain aspects of greyhound care practices. Noise sensitivity is widely recounted in the literature as a behavioural concern for companion dog caregivers and an area of welfare concern in canine kennel husbandry. Some studies have examined biophonic and anthrophonic sounds and their impacts on the behaviour of dogs, yet the acoustic knowledge of non-human animal experience is under represented in the literature. Therefore, this project will provide commentary on greyhound racing and rescue ‘acoustemologies', with the direct aim of positively impacting care practices for dogs in these settings.