At the turn of the 20th century and into the fourth decade, the virus rabies was rampant in canines in the State of New Jersey. As a matter of public health and safety municipalities had to appoint a “dog collector” to round up dogs that were suspected of having rabies. A vaccination requirement was also instituted at that time, and, remains in affect today. So others could verify that an animal was inoculated with a rabies vaccine, brass tags were required to be attached to an animals collar. Today, we call them dog licenses.
As the years progressed these “dog collectors” came to be called "dogcatchers." Keepers of local impoundment facilities (dog pounds), many times the "dogcatcher," came to be known as the "dog warden." Public health departments were and still are required to provide certain core services or “Minimum Standards of Performances” in their local jurisdictions. One of those core services is an organized rabies control program intended to control and prevent the spread of rabies.
Soon "dog catchers" were being asked by municipalities to address other local issues pertaining to animals. The title “animal warden” soon took hold and even today some agencies still refer to their animal control services in this antiquated manner. In 1968 pursuant to the “Administrative Procedure Act” P.L. 1968, c 410 C.52:14B-1 et seq.), the title “Animal Control Officer” evolved, and is still the appropriate reference. More and more duties continued to be bestowed on this “public servant.”
In 1983, pursuant to section 4 of P.L. 1983, c. 525, and in accordance with the “Administrative Procedure Act” 1968, the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services was required to adopt rules and regulations concerning the training and educational qualifications of Animal Control Officers. Two of the most important aspects of this statute were that Animal Control Officers were required to be State certified, and, all New Jersey municipalities were now required to appoint an Animal Control Officer. There are now over 1,500 Animal Control Officers who have been New Jersey State Certified.
Around the same time, (the early 80’s) a group of local Animal Control Officers in the Essex/Union County area would get together at a small Millburn Diner once a month to discuss issues and compare notes as to what was going on "in their neck of the woods." It wasn’t long before they realized that many of their problems were similar in nature. That small group of officers weren’t aware of it at the time, but they were participating in what is now known to be the first meetings of the New Jersey Certified Animal Control Officers Association (NJCACOA). Some of those very same officers remain on the job and are still active in the NJCACOA.
Once municipalities were required to appoint an Animal Control Officer, many had an opportunity to meet with others in their profession and discuss in open forum the challenges facing them on a daily basis. This is accomplished through an ongoing relationship with the NJCACOA.