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; and the products of these long relationships are the domestic animals we are familiar with today.
Domestication of animals did not start out as a planned action, or as a science; rather we diverted an animals’ natural breeding selections to satisfy our own desires.
A wolf, goat, bird or other animal may have presented a shorter coat, larger or smaller teeth, brighter colors or a better ability to find prey. These animals, whatever the attraction, were kept and shared food, shelter and safety. As these animals 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 domesticated and draft animals followed soon after.
We utilized the strength of the cow and ox to haul and pull for planting, harvesting and used them for transportation along with their meat, hide and milk. Most of the wild animals we collected, domesticated and used now have little resemblance to their ancestors.
The cat, long considered domesticated have retained much of their ancestry. Cats have the ability to live and prosper alongside man without much intervention. That and 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 us the ability to transport ourselves further and faster to other places and in doing that, diversified our own gene pools.
Dog Pounds - Dog Catchers - Humane Officers and Animal Shelters
As the country settled horses, cattle, sheep and other livestock were vital to survival and were coveted assets. Common grazing areas were used; fencing and other barriers were few. When livestock strayed into towns, fields under cultivation or areas where they were not welcomed, 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. Many livestock laws in the US originated in the Royal Code. North Carolina’s Livestock and Fence Law comprises the most antique law animal officers will encounter. North Carolina adopted the Royal Code livestock laws and law proclaiming an owner’s liability for dog control. 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 and along with the well known child exploitation practices.
Animal and child welfare advocates began voicing their concerns regarding child and animal abuse and in 1864 Henry Bergh, an American diplomat founded theASPCA, 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, in other states and provides several resources at ASPCA Pro online.
Dog pounds came into existence, evolving from livestock pounds 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 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. Not long ago North Carolina's health directors covered districts involving many counties. Most counties today employ a health director to oversee the health needs of their county alone. Today, many animal officers still act as a rabies control officer but many jurisdictions employ a specific person or agency 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 optionto build an animal shelter. Many do not realize shelter facilities are an option. Few North Carolina counties do not have 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 to, collect fees and taxes and put dogs to death. The pound was to notify people bringing dogs that the animal may be destroyed. In many counties the Dog Warden also collected the dog tax.
This law also established the “72 hour” or “3 day rule”, a minimum holding period fordogs and cats held in animal shelters in North Carolina. This rule is still in effect today and found in §130A-192 and §19A‑32.1. We will explore these statutes in Section 10 Rabies Control and Section 12 Animal Welfare Act.
In the same year North Carolina enacted several laws mandating rabies inoculations for dogs and cats, established rabies vaccinators, rabies tags and control of vicious animals.
From 2000 to 2017 households nationwide owning dogs increased from 68 million dogs owned to close to 90 million dogs estimated for 2017. Cat ownership increased proportionately the same. Dogs and cats once considered nuisances became family members and public awareness to animal welfare issues is now main stream. The pound master and the dog pound have given way to the animal control officer and to the animal shelter.
Increasing dog and cat ownership, under funding and the lack of easily accessible population controlmeasures is resulting 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 were destroyed. 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 to regulate the care of animals used in research. North Carolina followed in 1977 by enacting the NC Animal Welfare Act regulating the care of dogs and cats in commerce such as pet shops, boarding kennels and animal dealers but did not regulate governmental animal pounds or shelters until 2005.
A working knowledge of the NC Animal Welfare Act is crucial for officers whether or not they work in an animal shelter. We will discuss the Animal Welfare Act in Section 12. Many organizations with concerns regarding North Carolina’s animal laws, including animal service organizations routinely lobby at the local and state level to enact changes. Your experience and voice will be important as North Carolina goes forward.
We have undertaken a very brief overview of the history and legal beginnings of animal control. Of course there is always more to learn!
Animal control and animal welfare in North Carolina has had a stormy past. North Carolina is known as one of our slower moving states in improving our animal welfare and owner responsibility laws.
At the local level, individuals and organizations generally do not, or will not, understand the complexity, limitations and responsibilities you have in protecting both people and animals and the compromises that must be made in serving an entire community on demand.
North Carolina has not set standards for animal control officers or for their training, which is many times, on the job and covers a wide range quickly and under stressful circumstances. We all learn by our mistakes but this course is designed to make your mistakes minimal by offering an uncomplicated, basic overview of animal laws, regulations, resources and to share with you the experience of seasoned animal control professionals.
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North Carolina Laws - Animal Control - Animal Protection - Public Health