Below is an editorial from Mark Kumpf, President, National Animal Control Officers Association. As an opinion piece, this may or may not reflect the views and/or opinions of Dog Living Magazine.
The quintessential negative depiction of the “dog catcher” of American movies and television has once again been cast in “Hotel for Dogs.” In the cinematic tradition of the “Shaggy D.A.” and ‘Lady and the Tramp”, animal control officers are once again portrayed as film antagonists; blundering villains, awkwardly incompetent and enthusiastically sadistic in their treatment of canines.
While those associated with the film should be lauded for their off-screen efforts to promote proper dog care, nutrition, exercise and the adoption of homeless animals, the unfortunate typecast of animal control officers in film continues to be an affront to the thousands of professionals across the country dedicated to promoting ethical and responsible animal care and ownership.
The National Animal Control Association (NACA) was established in 1978 as an independent, nonprofit organization fostering the highest standards of professionalism in the practice of animal control. As the primary professional association for animal control practitioners, NACA members participate in extensive instructional programs with the goal of improving their knowledge and skills in order to protect the animals and communities they serve.
Each day, our membership of 3,400 animal control officers, agencies and affiliated state members join thousands of our colleagues at work in urban and rural communities across the country. Hardworking professionals, they are responsible for transporting and often providing care and treatment for a significant percentage of the estimated 6-8 million cats and dogs entering shelters each year.
Between 600,000 and 750,000 of these animals (nearly 30% of dogs) are reunited with their families annually, and approximately half are adopted from the more than 5,000 shelters operated across the country thanks to the hard work of these professionals and others. These officers are also called upon to safely and compassionately euthanize tens of thousands of dogs, cats and other animals too injured, sick or aggressive to be adopted or in the most unfortunate circumstances, as a result of budgetary constraints.
Animal control officers investigate cases of thousands of animal cruelty cases and are often called upon to testify in court. They may perform their duties and protect the public at great personal risk, whether attempting to free a terrified trapped pet, facing a wild, diseased animal or rescuing animals from abusive and neglectful environments. Officers have been threatened, injured and even killed in the line of duty, shuttering puppy mills, investigating cases of animal cruelty, and prosecuting organizers of dog fighting and blood sports.
The cinematic adaptation of Lois Duncan’s 1971 book is certainly entertaining to young audiences, and who amongst dog lovers hasn’t at one-time imagined themselves as the keeper of an inn for canines, a “dalmation plantation” or similar facility based your breed of preferences.
However, NACA encourages adults to explain to their young moviegoers that the film’s “dog catchers” are a slanderous protrayal of the highly trained and compassionate professional animal control officer.
Those who are interested in learning more about the animal control profession are encouraged to visit a local shelter, contact your local animal control officer or visit the National Animal Control Association online at www.nacanet.org.
Mark Kumpf is the Director of Montgomery County, Ohio’s Animal Resource Center and President of the National Animal Control Association (NACA).