Michelle Mendoza, Master’s student

Legislation & policy targeting bully dog breeds – justified or not?

Michelle is a passionate animal lover who is especially enamoured with pit bulls, which actually consist of three breeds (American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and American pit bull terriers). She is concerned about how their negative reputations influence legislation and policy. Indeed, keeping pit bulls can be quite the polarising issue, with advocates and opponents prone to misusing facts to make their cases. Michelle dug into this for her master’s thesis.

By combining a review of the literature, with quantitative and qualitative social science, she explored the justification for such legislation and policy. Are these breeds of dogs really more aggressive than other breeds and, if so, why? How do pet owners and other stakeholders understand and speak about the controversy, and what are their views on the merits of such legislation? How do the media portray the issues, and to what extent are the portrayals evidence-based? These are the key questions Michelle asked and answered. Overall, her findings suggest that the evidentiary basis for these regulations is weak, at best.

Michelle successfully defended her thesis in April 2023. She works as a veterinary technician and administrator in Jamaica, Queens and is contemplating her career path. Michelle is pictured with Taz – her lovely pit bull.