Is dogcatcher actually an elective office?

Answers to your questions about the news.
Nov. 5 2010 6:57 PM

Dog Race

Is dogcatcher actually an elective office?

A caught dog.
Do dogcatchers really run for office?

Delaware Republican senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell lost her election bid Tuesday against Chris Coons. During the primary, the state's GOP chairman said that O'Donnell "could not be elected dogcatcher." Is "dogcatcher" ever an elective office?

No. While the unofficial job of dogcatcher has existed for centuries—towns would often hire someone to round up stray dogs and shoot them—it was only incorporated into state and local government operations as "animal control" in the 19th century. Since then, the job has almost always been filled by appointment. For example, in Rehoboth, Mass., the job of "animal control officer" is appointed by the town's Board of Selectmen. In Louisville, Ky., the director of Metro Animal Services is appointed—and sometimes removed—by the mayor. Iowa City hired its animal-services director after a nationwide search. The Explainer has come across rumors that certain American jurisdictions elect their dogcatchers, but no concrete evidence to back up these assertions.

Advertisement

The insult that someone "couldn't be elected dogcatcher"appears to have originated in the late 1800s. In 1889, the Weekly Courier Journal in Louisville noted that then-president Grover Cleveland was "so unpopular in Washington that he could not be elected dog catcher for the district." A year later, a letter to the New York Times attacked a politician who "could not get elected on his own popularity and without the aid of his 'machine' to the office of dogcatcher were it an elective one" (emphasis added). Dogcatcher is also sometimes used as shorthand for the lowest-level political office. For example, in 1979 National Journal wrote about the collapse of a magazine "designed to appeal to elected officeholders from U.S. Senator to dogcatcher."

The dogcatcher dig implies that rounding up canines is an easy job. In fact, it takes extensive training to become an animal-control officer. The National Animal Control Association requires new officers to undergo at least 80 hours of training—which can include workshops on euthanasia, chemical immobilization, and how to wield a "bite stick." Officers then need on-the-job training, much like police officers, before they are fully prepared to catch wild animals.

Got a question about today's news?  Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks Misha Goodman and Todd Stosuy of the National Animal Control Association.

Like  Slate and the Explainer on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.