There have been dogcatchers in the United States since the 18th century; perhaps even earlier. One of their functions was to pick up dogs that appeared to be rabid or vicious. The public appreciated that role, but it was a difficult and often dangerous one for the dogcatcher.
As the 20th century rolled in and the United States became more urban, it became less accepted for dogs to have free run of cities. At this point dogcatchers began picking up any dogs that were running loose. They were taken to the pound where they were euthanized if not picked up within a prescribed number of days. As more and more pets were picked up and taken to the pound, dogcatchers became less popular. Even the term dogcatcher is nowhere near as prevalent as it once was.
The people who perform this function now have a much more descriptive and honored name: Animal Control Officers. These are the people who rescue abandoned, abused, and neglected animals. They work in shelters that help care for, rehabilitate, and find homes for the animals they bring in.
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Superintendent Walter Cecil Cox of the Denver Municipal Dog Pound in his new dog-catching auto. The machine is equipped with sectional cages, drinking basins and reclining mats.
In the early days of the twentieth century, a dog catcher would have used a horse and cart. (The horse and cart continued to be used even into the 1960s for various jobs such as ‘rag and bone man’). By the late 1920s, motorcycle sidecar outfits or small vans were cheap enough for purchase by some local councils. But, in the 1910s and early 1920s, a carrier tricycle with a caged box on the front would have been an ideal vehicle for a council dog catcher to perform his duties.
Brown Dog Catcher carrier tricycle, 1919.
Portland, Oregon, 1920.
Washington D.C.,1924. At one point dog catchers were paid by the number of dogs caught, and people claimed the dog catchers stole family pets. Library of Congress.
Stray dog packs were a huge problem in Detroit in the 1800s, some carrying rabies, for which there was no known cure. In 1881 the police department began appointing dog catchers to collect strays in a wagon. Here, a Detroit dog catcher with one of his captives, date unknown. The Detroit News archives
Washington, D.C., 1924.
Three Dogcatchers with Dogcatcher Wagon & their quarry.
Dog Catchers in the streets of Berlin, 1910.
Paul Fenzeny, 1882. Library and Archives Canada website.
Showing the City Dogcatcher at the Second Market,