What Does an Animal Control Officer Do?

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What Does an Animal Control Officer Do?

Animal control officers ensure the public’s safety by upholding animal licensing laws and humane treatment rules while on patrol. As officers responsible for animal care, it can be both challenging and rewarding to handle all types of animals from farm animals to pets.

Animal control personnel are usually assigned to either local authorities, cities or even federal government organizations. They have the potential for advancement from entry-level officer positions up through managerial and supervisory levels; higher level titles could include senior-level animal control officers/coordinators, superintendents or directors of operations.

Animal Control Officer Duties and Responsibilities

This job typically entails the following duties:

  • Impounding or capturing dangerous animals or wild animals
  • Investigating instances of animal cruelty
  • Implementing licensing laws and other state, county and municipal regulations that pertain to programs for controlling animals
  • Expert witness testimony in court cases
  • Retrieving trapped animals
  • Writing incident reports

Animal Control Officers – Humanely Caring for Animals Under Their Care

While on the job, animal control officers frequently interact with members of the public. They issue citations and admonitions to anyone causing harm to any of their charges and have the power to remove animals from a negligent owner’s custody. Officers may also conduct training seminars about animal welfare laws and other relevant topics for community members.

Wildlife officers provide essential support when it comes to wildlife relocation, often helping those animals who have been forced out due to habitat destruction or who are seeking food or shelter.

Animal Control Officer Salary

A salary for an animal control officer will depend on their location and level of experience.

Median Annual Salary ($35,330)
Top 10% Salary ($58,220) ($27.99 an hour)
Bottom 10% Annual Salary ($33,160)

Education, Training & Certification

To pursue a career in animal control, applicants must be 18 years old with either an high school diploma or GED and some prior experience working with animals. A degree from either a college related to animal-related subjects or criminology is usually preferred.

Training and Education

Animal control officers must have an in-depth knowledge of various species, such as first aid for animals, food handling for pets, care of domesticated pets, humane capture tools/methods for wildlife capture, animal behavior issues, public relations work for investigating cruelty cases and law enforcement tactics.

Experience: Prior experience as a police officer, vet technician, trainer for animals shelter manager or wildlife rehabilitation specialist is an advantage. Many potential animal control officers gain additional practical experience through volunteering at local humane societies, shelters or rescue-related organizations.

Certification: Some states require training to become certified before an applicant can be considered for a position as an officer of the animal department. Therefore, those interested in entering this field of animal control should research the requirements of their chosen state or region.

Animal Control Officer Skills & Competencies

For you to be successful in this field, you’ll need the following abilities and qualities:

Stability of Emotions Animal control officers often come into contact with difficult situations involving animals who have been mistreated, neglected or even injured. To effectively assist these animals in need, they must learn how to manage their emotions when they arise.

Skills in Interpersonal Communication: This job involves regular contact with people and requires the ability to manage difficult circumstances.

Physical Endurance and Strength

Animal control officers must have the physical endurance and stamina to remain seated for extended periods of time while stretching, bending and climbing over obstacles in order to help animals in need. Furthermore, they need to be prepared to manage scared and aggressive animals.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, animal-care and service workers will experience an employment growth of 22 percent by 2026 – more than the overall U.S. employment increase of 7 percent for all occupations combined. Unfortunately, no analysis is provided specifically on employment data for officers who handle animals by the BLS.

Work Environment

Individuals considering this path should carefully evaluate their capacity to carry out all responsibilities required of them. Certain duties, like aiding in the euthanasia of animals that have not been claimed, could prove mentally draining for some.

They may need to handle animals that are stray or abandoned. Police officers could possibly be required to intervene in fight rings to save animals involved and remove any involved parties. They might also need to lure any bait animals away from the fight scene and into a secure area for safe keeping.

Animal control officers must be mindful of the proper safety precautions when working in potentially hazardous environments with unpredictable animals. There is a great risk for injury when trying to capture an animal under stress, whether this stress has been caused by abuse or neglect or simply being placed in an unpleasant setting.


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