Humans and animals have a widely varying relationship which has been studied at length. Examining our interactions with animals in negative contexts can help us further understand the factors that’s influence the nature of the human-animal relationship, particularly with our most popular companion animals. This study continues the use of a jury design, previously used in studies regarding animal abuse, to examine responses to a scenario of an altercation resulting in a dog biting a person. In this study, 243 undergraduate students read the scenario presented to them and completed a survey examining their judgements of blame and punishment for the incident. In the interest of examining the effects of different variables, participants were randomly presented with 1 of 18 potential scenarios in which the role of the human in potentially provoking the dog, the breed of the dog involved, and the degree of damage inflicted were manipulated. Results showed an avoidance toward making any judgements on the dog’s disposition, neither positively nor negatively. Additionally, some gender differences were discovered in responses related to euthanasia, blame on the owner, and the promotion of an obedience training program. Surprisingly, degree of damage did not have significant effects on responses, while dog breed differences revealed that participants placed greater blame and responsibility on owners of Pit bulls rather than the dog itself, which is potentially explained by the sample’s age demographics. The manipulation of human provocation of the incident proved to have the most significant effect of participant responses of blame and punishment, affecting perceptions of blame attributed to the dog and the victim, as well as the punishments and protections deemed appropriate. The results suggest an emphasis on human component in the perceptions of the human-animal relationship and provide insight on the variables relevant to the relationship.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Sims, Valerie


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program




Access Status

Open Access

Release Date