Appreciating Animal Control Services
By Phil Snyder, Executive Director Suncoast Humane Society
I’ll bet you did not know that some of the pet awareness topics celebrated in July included: Dog House Repair Month (please don’t chain your dog to a dog house), Lost Pet Prevention Month (keep your pet indoors), ID Your Pet Day (don’t forget microchipping), Pet Fire Safety Day (keep a sticker on your door or window identifying the pets inside) and No Pet Store Puppies Day (stop puppy mill tragedies).
All of the topics listed above are concerns of Suncoast Humane Society and specifically issues that local animal control departments deal with on a daily basis. They are just examples of the important services performed by animal control officers and animal control agencies in general. Due to the population explosion of people, and especially of dogs and cats, the need for effective animal control services has increased over the years. As late as the 1950s and ’60s, animal control departments were called dog pounds (from the word impoundment), managed by dog wardens. Field staff were referred to as dog catchers. Very few pounds even sheltered cats, as stray dogs were considered the main problem, both with public safety and public health. In general, the scare of rabies was much higher than today.
Dogs and cats are born at a rate of 10 to 1 over humans, causing a continuous pet overpopulation problem. Over time, the public’s growing concern regarding treatment of animals, and the need for better public service in general, led to the expansion and improvement of many animal control programs. Pounds became animal shelters, and the agencies became animal control and even animal services. Dogs, cats and other domestic animals were better regulated and protected by laws and ordinances. Shelters became better equipped to care for dogs, cats and other animals kept as pets by the public. Some animal control facilities even had arrangements for housing straying livestock or other farm animals. State animal control organizations grew across the country with the purpose of sharing and providing valuable resources. Those resources include professional advice, training and networking to local animal control agencies. They also monitor legislation and seek better laws that both regulate and protect animals.
In 1978, the National Animal Control Association (now the National Animal Care and Control Association) was born as a national resource for professionalizing services and programs. The number of complaints from the public to city and county governments regarding stray dogs and cats, injured animals, animal neglect and animal abuse is very high. The money budgeted for animal control programs by governments is normally not enough to meet the demand. It definitely does not meet the need. Some animal control departments stand alone as government agencies, but many are under departments of public safety or public health, and usually take a back seat to other needs at budget time.
Why isn’t everyone always happy with animal control? Think about it! If your dog is picked up running loose, you are upset. If the animal control officer is unable to capture the neighbor’s loose dog you complained about, you are upset. If the cruelty complaint you report does not end in a conviction, you are upset. How could they possibly please everyone? Many of the services provided by animal control go unnoticed and definitely unappreciated. I hate to think of how it would be to not have their services. The result would be an increased number of dangerous dogs roaming our neighborhoods, more people bitten, sick and injured animals left unattended, and no help for animals suffering from neglect and abuse. Let’s not allow that to happen. Find out more about your local animal control. I know you will learn to appreciate them.
Local animal control phone numbers include:
Charlotte County Animal Control 941-833-5690
Sarasota County Animal Services 941-861-9500
Lee County Domestic Animal Services 239-533-7387
Desoto County Animal Control 863-993-4855