Our early history with animals, notably the wolf and chicken, dates back 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. The wolf and man shared a similar social structure, hunted the same prey and both species gained a benefit from the other. As a result an ancient compact was formed and this relationship continues. Relationships with other species each have their own story; the results of these long relationships are domestic animals. Domestication of animals did not start out planned, or as a science; rather we diverted an animals’ natural breeding selections to satisfy our own desires. A wolf, goat or bird may have presented a shorter coat, larger or smaller teeth, brighter colors or a better ability to find prey. This animal was kept, shared food, shelter and safety. As that animal reproduced, we affected a change in that species. Evidence of domestic dogs found in Iraq date as far back as 12,000 years. As man colonized and settled sheep were domesticated for food and wool, cattle and pigs were introduced and domesticated; draught animals followed thereafter. We utilized the strength of the cow and ox to haul and pull to help in planting, harvesting and for transportation along with their meat, hide and milk. The cat, while considered domesticated have retained much of their ancestry. Cats have the ability to live and prosper alongside man without much intervention. That and due to their ability to rapidly reproduce makes them unique among domestic animals. All horses as we know them today, are a result of our domestication of the species. The only truly wild horse, Przewalski’s horse, first discovered in Mongolia are now only found in zoos. The use of horses and camels markedly changed man’s own evolution. They gave the ability to transport ourselves further and faster to other places and diversified our own gene pools.
As the country settled horses, cattle, sheep and other livestock were vital to survival and were coveted assets. Common grazing areas were used and fencing and other barriers were few. When livestock strayed into towns, fields under cultivation or areas where they were not welcome, they were confined in the village pound and cared for by a Pound Master. Pounds were built in well organized villages and towns and as the American colonies grew, many pounds were built along with them. Some pounds have been preserved as historical sites. Plymouth, Massachusetts preserved their pound, built in 1671. The specifications for the pound were that it be "horse high, bull strong, and hog tight." The town voted to erect and paid 8 pounds ($10.67 in dollars today) for its construction. The few pounds that are left are catalogued in the National Register of Historic Places.
Cultivation increased along with the human population and trade, as did the keeping of livestock. Laws were introduced to keep livestock protected, in control and out of towns and fields as their numbers grew. North Carolina’s Livestock and Fence Law comprises the most antique law animal officers will encounter. Brought to NC law along with law proclaiming an owner’s liability for dog control from the Royal Code and very few changes (amendments) have been made since.
As the nation grew the use of animals increased. The horse, vital in food production and transportation became a victim of overwork and abuse. Sweatshops came into existence who exploited children. Animal and child welfare advocates began voicing concerns and in 1864 Henry Bergh, an American diplomat founded the ASPCA, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The ASPCA is America’s oldest animal welfare society. The ASPCA’s rich history and work preventing cruelty to animals and children continues to this day. It is well worth your time to learn more about the ASPCA and how it assists animal officers in NC pursuing mutual goals. The ASPCA, based in New York also maintains the Animal Poison Control Center, Recovery and Behavioral Centers and the Humane Alliance, a teaching facility in the Asheville area of North Carolina providing low cost spay neuter for pet and feral cats. The ASPCA also provides excellent training courses in North Carolina and other states and provides several resources at ASPCA Pro online. You can find a link to the ASPCA and many other resources on the links page at NCLaws.net
Dog pounds came into existence, and the natural keeper of the pounds, the Poundmaster began working alongside the Dogcatcher to confine errant and destructive dogs and the beginning attempts in controlling rabies. In 1951 North Carolina enacted law that allowed counties to employ Animal Control officers and Dog Wardens to protect livestock and the citizens in general from dogs and to work as an assistant to the Rabies Control officer if one was present in that county. Rabies Control officers worked within or for Health Departments. Today, many animal officers also act as a rabies control officer but many jurisdictions still employ a specific person to act as rabies control officer. Rabies control remains a high priority for health departments and animal services. Animal officers must gain a good working knowledge of the virus, how it is transmitted and control methods.
Dogcatchers were commonplace in growing cities along with dog pounds. In 1973, North Carolina enacted law allowing counties to appoint animal control officers and use tax funds for animal control and protection programs, to prevent animal cruelty and the option to build an animal shelter.
In 1983 the NC legislature enacted a law, since repealed; “Pound; disposition of impounded dogs.” for counties who employed a dog warden to erect a dog pound and hold dogs for a minimum of 72 hours. The Dog Warden kept records of the dogs, their length of stay, to whom the dog was released too, collect fees and taxes or put them to death. The pound was to notify people bringing dogs to the pound that the animal may be destroyed. In many counties the Dog Warden also collected the dog tax. This law founded the “72 hour” or “3 day rule” regarding dogs and cats held in animal shelters in North Carolina. In the same year North Carolina enacted several laws mandating rabies inoculations for dogs and cats, established rabies vaccinators, rabies tags and vicious animals.
From 2000 to 2017 households owning dogs increased from 68 million dogs owned to close to 90 million estimated for 2017. Cat ownership increased proportionately the same. Dogs and cats once considered nuisances became family members and as such public awareness to animal welfare issues became main stream. The pound master and the dog pound have given way to the animal control officer and the animal shelter. Increasing dog and cat ownership, under funding and the lack of easily accessible population controlmeasures has resulted in a dog and cat population overwhelming animal shelters in North Carolina and many other states. North Carolina reported receiving over 280,000 animals in 80 facilities in 2001 and the euthanasia of these animals ran into high numbers, as many as 95% of dogs and cats entering some shelters. The state averaged destroying 60-65% of all animals received for many years. Montgomery County made headlines in 2012 when it was reported that 99% of the animals received were destroyed.
Municipal, or government operated, animal shelters are not regulated by Federal law nor are North Carolina’s governments required to construct or maintain an animal shelter. North Carolina gives local governments the option to construct an animal shelter but it is not required. The United States enacted the Animal Welfare Act in 1966. North Carolina followed in 1977 by enacting the NC Animal Welfare Act in 1977 regulating the care ofdogs and cats in commerce such as pet shops, boarding kennels and animal dealers but did not regulate governmental animal pounds or shelters until 1977. A working knowledge of the NC Animal Welfare Act is crucial for officers whether or not they work in an animal shelter and is discussed in its’ own section. Many organizations with concerns regarding North Carolina’s animal laws, including animal service organizations lobby at the local and state level to enact changes. Your experience and voice will be important as North Carolina goes forward.