What’s in a Name?
Animal Control Manager Daniel Ettinger, Summit County Animal Control
My name is Daniel Ettinger and I am currently an Animal Protection Officer. I started in this industry in 2010 as an Animal Protection and Control Officer. Since then, I have been an Animal Control Officer, Animal Welfare Officer, Humane Law Enforcement Officer, Animal Services Officer and Animal Care and Control Officer. The inconsistency in our profession starts where our name begins. Regardless of the discrepancies there are many rewards to the job. There is nothing like providing care to animals in need and protecting your community from sick and dangerous animals.
It would be great to see more standards in our profession. There are some states that require training but the last time I checked there are 44 states that do not. There are no standards put forth like there is with police officers. Most if not all police departments require officers to go through a police academy prior to field training. A police academy can range from four – six months and field training can range from 12-16 weeks. Though each agency has their standard operating procedures most training programs are similar.
I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to travel throughout the country and meet many Animal Protection Officers. I’ve heard stories how some officers did not receive any training when they started. They were given the keys to a truck and a catchpole and told to go catch some dogs. There is an infamous video from 1987 that ironically is now used in several animal protection officer safety trainings. That video shows Los Angeles Animal Control Officer Florence Crowell attacked by a pit bull type dog. I have spoken with people that worked for that agency shortly after the incident and I was told Officer Crowell had no training. It is unfortunate that she had to be injured on the job due to lack of training. What is even more concerning is the misconception of this profession.
Animal Protection Officers are housed under humane societies, municipalities, police departments and sheriff offices. I recall my first day at a municipality, we were housed under the facilities department. I met the facilities manager who was wearing a flannel shirt and a read baseball cap. He said hello and then, “you gonna catch some dogs for us?” I was new and didn’t know much about the profession. It turned out I spent more time investigating crimes against animal and crimes caused from animals then I did catching dogs.
As I reflect on that day it saddens my that the director who oversaw Animal Protection Officers didn’t even know what they did. That extends to our elected officials and managers. Some managers are just administrators that oversee a program without the passion or dedication to push this profession forward.
You have all heard the phrase no-kill. There is also a popular phrase called socially conscious sheltering. There has been such an emphasis over the past several years to standardize animal shelters and the overall state of the animal welfare industry but unfortunately the Animal Protection Officer has been left behind. I am hopeful over the next few years we see our leaders push this narrative forward.
We need standards, we need training, we need the support from our managers, legislators and elected officials. There is no doubt that there are people in our industry doing great work. We currently have several options for training, whether in person or virtually but we still lack standards. You may be trained by one agency a certain way and told a different thing by the next agency.
We need to come together as a community and work to bring standards to this profession. We need a social media campaign that shows the great work we do instead of Disney embellishing our work. The truth is the dog catcher is and was real, it was not the creative masterpiece of a director in Hollywood, it was a reflection of our profession. It is time to show everyone that we are empathetic, educated and passionate professionals. We wear several hats as detectives, social workers, EMTs and caregivers. The more support we get the more we can help the people and animals in our community. I intend on supporting all of you and look forward to the next ten years in this profession.
Tune in to The Humane Roundup podcast to hear about current topics, listen to current industry leaders and most of all, be entertained. Daniel is the co-host of this animal welfare focused podcast. If you would like to connect with ACO’s, get access to resources, or learn more about animal control, become a member of the Code 3 ACO Coalition.