By Jim Tedford, PetSafe Director of Animal Welfare Initiatives and Alliances
As I rock my grandsons on my knee and tell them stories about the good old days (completely leaving the ‘70s out of the equation), I will relate to them tales of things that exist now only in legend. They, of course, are already in love with the idea of dinosaurs so I will certainly work them in to my mix. I’ll also tell them about the days when we would meet my Dad at the airport at the end of a long business trip. We could walk right to the gate without being strip-searched and watch for him as he made his way up the jet bridge. He’d come off the plane crisply dressed in a suit and tie with shoes so shiny they’d make us squint.
I will also tell them about the dog catcher. He existed mostly in comic strips and cartoons. Usually not the sharpest pencil in the drawer, the dog catcher was the guy who was often outwitted by uber-intelligent cartoon canines who managed to avoid the big net! Remember this clip from Lady and the Tramp?
The TV version of the dog catcher bore virtually no resemblance to modern day animal care and control professionals who work tirelessly to make our communities better places for animals and people alike. Like so many relics from our history that need to be filed away and forgotten, the mere term “Dog Catcher” needs to go away.
Just like police officers and fire fighters, animal care and control officers are highly-trained, highly compassionate professionals who provide vital, life-saving services every day, often at great risk to their own safety. Thanks to national organizations such as the National Animal Control Association (NACA) as well as state and regional trade groups, we have evolved well beyond the old dog catcher image. In recent years, most dog pounds have evolved into animal shelters or animal services departments or departments of animal care and control. Gone are the days when their sole function was to round up stray dogs (and sometimes cats) and hold them in dark, dungeon-like facilities in the name of protecting public health and safety.
Today’s animal control officers (ACOs) promote humane, responsible animal care and work within communities to make sure animals receive the best possible care and that human-animal interactions have positive, mutually beneficial outcomes. Shelters provide outreach services including humane education, low-cost spay/neuter services and even summer camps to help kids learn how to be responsible pet owners and responsible citizens.
I’ll talk to my grandsons about Sabretooth Tigers and Mastadons and all manner of other creatures that have gone extinct. I’ll teach them what it means to be good stewards of the environment and all the plants and animals that call it home. And, with any luck, they’ll tug on my sleeve and ask me to tell them again about the old dog catcher. I’ll remind them about all the good work animal care and control professionals do to keep us and our animals safe from harm. I will make sure they grow up to be responsible people and responsible pet owners.
If you haven’t thanked your local animal care & control officers lately, how about a batch of home-baked cookies or just a nice note? If you haven’t had stray dogs in your trash this week, you probably owe them one!