During the first quarter of the 20th Century, Maricopa County communities were rural and sparsely populated. Dogs and cats were valued for what they contributed to this rural lifestyle. Dogs were working dogs earning their keep on a local ranch or farm, or they were used for hunting to help put food on the table. Some dogs, as well as cats, were used as mousers to help keep small rodents out of the homes and barns. All dogs were permitted to run at large.
During the third decade of the 20th Century, fee roaming dogs resulted in a dog overpopulation problem, and with it came an increase of rabies; a very real threat to public health. As a result of this problem, state legislators began to establish county rabies and control programs. In Arizona, dogs must be vaccinated against rabies and licensed. Cats are not included in the mandate because cats are not a proven vector for the rabies virus. Maricopa County's dog licensing program has effectively reduced the incidence of rabies in dogs to the level that naturally occurs in cats, which is very rare.
There have been no laws passed to regulate cats and the impact they have had on the community. Because cats don't pose a significant rabies threat they are not regulated. An exploding cat population is posing a significant public health concern.
In the early 60's a significant change was occurring in the human/animal relationship. All across the United States communities began to urbanize dogs and cats. They found their way out of the barnyard workforce and into our hearts, our homes and for many families, into our beds. Pets were no longer considered staff; they were part of the family. The animal control program did not keep pace with this societal change and we continued to implement catch and kill methodologies right up to the last decade of the...