DOG CATCHER NO MORE: Community-Minded Innovations on Animal Control

By Giacoppo, Scott | Public Management, January-February 2018 | Go to article overview

DOG CATCHER NO MORE: Community-Minded Innovations on Animal Control


Giacoppo, Scott, Public Management


From villainous depictions in films like the one found in Lady and the Tramp to the punitive-sounding "dog pound," the concept of the dog catcher has been a historically antagonistic one. Today's animal care and control services, however, are redefining the way they relate to residents and embracing principles that promote safe, humane communities for people and pets.

Because animal control services are no longer primarily concerned with rabies control, the outdated role of "dog catcher" has been replaced by the community-minded "field services liaison." Here are five reasons why:

1 We're a nation of animal lovers. According to the 2017-1018 national survey by the American Pet Products Association, 68 percent of U.S. households now own at least one pet, and annual spending on our companion animals is projected to exceed $62 billion in 2017. Dogs and cats, along with other domestic pets, are now part of the family.

Gone are the days of animal control "roundups" followed by animals being killed after their legally mandated hold periods expired. People who have pets and other community members expect humane and ethical animal care practices, which include making every effort to reunite families with lost or stray pets, and finding new homes for healthy, adoptable pets.

2 We value transparency and innovation. Thanks in part to the pervasiveness of social media, accountability and transparency from government officials--police officers, city councilmembers, animal control officers--have become major priorities for communities of all sizes. Residents want to know that their tax dollars are being spent wisely, and on programs aligned with their values.

This includes replacing outdated and ineffective animal control practices with innovative programs that keep people and pets safe, happy, and healthy. Large-scale community cat programs and efforts to end dog-breed discrimination and pursue effective, breed-neutral laws are great examples of such programs.

3 We champion proactive governance. In addition to being a nation of animal lovers, we're also a nation of problem solvers. Where once an animal control officer would be dispatched to trap and collect an animal, after which that animal would often be killed, local animal services are now focused on identifying animal-related problems and implementing long-term, cost-effective solutions.

Similar to the community policing model that champions proactive problem-solving techniques, animal care and control services are now partnering with the public and other agencies to go beyond simply reacting to complaints, and instead using data and planning to implement long-term solutions with preventative measures.

Animal control agencies across the country, including those in cities like El Paso, Texas; Boise, Idaho; Yakima, Washington; and Palm Springs, California, have embraced this proactive approach and recently completed specialized training with Best Friends Animal Society in such areas as conflict resolution and community cat programming.

4 We believe pets belong in homes, not animal shelters. Keeping pets in homes and out of shelters is at the heart of the field services liaison role. …

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