A dogcatcher or animal control officer is a civil employee who is responsible for handling reports of loose animals in his or her community. The term “dogcatcher” is generally thought of as pejorative by people in this profession, who prefer “animal control officer,” since it suggests that the position has a much greater scope than just catching loose dogs. A large municipality will have a full-time dogcatcher, while smaller towns may rely on members of the police force to perform this important task.
Loose dogs in particular are deemed a social menace because they can be dangerous or they may carry disease. As a result, the profession of dogcatcher is actually quite ancient; people have been filling some form of the position since at least the 1600s. A dogcatcher will also respond to reports of sick or rabid animals or any species, and he or she will generally assist with other animal issues, such as loose livestock.
Many people recognize a dogcatcher by his or her characteristic van. A dogcatcher usually drives a truck with several built in cages for the animals he or she picks up. In addition, the truck is used to carry an assortment of necessary supplies such as food, water, leashes, blankets, basic first aid tools, and tranquilizer guns. In some areas, an animal control officer is also authorized to destroy dangerous animals, and he or she may carry a shotgun for handling animals which are too dangerous to approach, such as dogs with rabies.
Typically, in order to become an animal control officer, someone must take a test administered by the municipality in which he or she lives. In some areas, an animal control officer must also have some education and training so that he or she understands how to handle animals. Many dogcatchers are actually very fond of animals, and they work in animal care and control to ensure that the animals in their community receive the best care possible. Once qualified, a dogcatcher may work out in the field or in an animal shelter, processing captured and surrendered animals.
Being a dogcatcher is hard work. It requires skill and compassion, as the animals handled by a dogcatcher are often frightened and stressed, which can cause unusual behavior. A dogcatcher is generally physically fit, so that he or she can chase after and handle large animals. It can also be emotionally challenging to work in the animal control profession, as many unwanted animals are severely abused, and being a dogcatcher often exposes one to the worst side of humanity and animals alike.