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Out of Control, Into Compassion

Progressive agencies are changing the way animal control does business, reconciling the need to protect the public with the goal of saving animals’ lives

Progressive agencies are changing the way animal control does business, reconciling the need to protect the public with the goal of saving animals’ lives

While many ACOs still wear badges, “dogcatchers” have come and gone. Even “Animal Control” is beginning to seem out-of-date—many departments have changed their names to “Animal Services” or “Humane Law Enforcement.” ISTOCKPHOTO.COM
When Mark Kumpf was an animal control officer in Virginia back in the early 1990s, he held what he now regards as a rather dubious record: He’d issued more misdemeanor summonses than any other officer in the history of the department.

“I wrote more dog tickets than I knew what to do with,” says Kumpf, now president of the National Animal Control Association and director of the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center in Dayton, Ohio. “It really was very much an enforcement attitude. … The goal was how many animals can you pick up, how fast can we get them off the street, and how many summonses can you write.”

He did it for years, patrolling the streets of a busy port city, a dedicated civil servant with a clear, specific job: Protect the public from dangerous animals and cite people for violations of animal control laws. He spent his days capturing strays, investigating cruelty complaints, and checking out pets for licenses and rabies vaccination compliance. His citations averaged between 100 and 150 a month, and his monthly court dates were a full docket of what Kumpf calls the citation “trifecta”—running at large, no city dog license, and failure to vaccinate against rabies.

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