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Who Let (the) Dog Out?

Criminal Law Bulletin, Vol. 47, No. 6, 2011

14 Pages Posted: 25 May 2011 Last revised: 7 Jun 2011

Brian K. Pinaire

Lehigh University - Political Science

Date Written: May 23, 2011


This Essay provides the first-ever scholarly investigation of the origins of "bounty hunting" as the practice exists in the United States. With an historical focus on British policies instituted around the turn into the eighteenth century, I argue that the scheme of regularized rewards for the arrest and prosecution of alleged criminal offenders constitutes the "roots" of American bounty hunting. This early system, whose practitioners were referred to as "thief-takers," formalized and legitimized the notion of incentivized pursuit of "fugitives" and - while eventually phased out in Britain - provides the historical and conceptual parallel for the for-profit, private sector-level apprehension of individuals wanted by the law in the United States today. These early policies are, in short, what let the "Dog" out in the Anglo-American tradition.

Keywords: bounty hunting, fugitives, rewards, police

Suggested Citation

Pinaire, Brian K., Who Let (the) Dog Out? (May 23, 2011). Criminal Law Bulletin, Vol. 47, No. 6, 2011. Available at SSRN: or

Brian Pinaire (Contact Author)

Lehigh University - Political Science ( email )

9 West Packer Ave.
Bethlehem, PA 18015
United States
610.758.3339 (Phone)
610.758.3348 (Fax)

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