Animal Cop: Salary and Career Facts

An animal cop may also be known as an animal control officer or humane officer. Learn about training requirements, common job responsibilities, education options, and the earning potential for this career. Schools offering Animal Care degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Animal Cop?

Animal cops are responsible for enforcing animal control laws. Their main duties include catching stray animals, investigating claims of pet abuse, enforcing pet license laws, and cleaning up dead animals, along with basic clerical duties around their office. Different states have different requirements for this profession, though many give priority to law enforcement professionals and those with a history of animal care when hiring. Professional training will be required regardless of where you are employed.

Below may be important information that contains details to becoming an animal control officer.

Education Required High school diploma and state training program; degree programs available
Key Duties Capture and care of animals
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%* (for all animal control workers)
Median Salary (2015) $33,450* (for all animal control workers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How Do I Become an Animal Cop?

States have widely varying professional and educational standards for animal cops, so you should investigate the requirements of your particular state before beginning your training. For instance, Michigan requires 100 hours of training unless a candidate is a police officer, New Jersey has a 7-day course, and Virginia requires 56 hours of training for candidates who have prior law enforcement experience or 92 hours of training for candidates who don't. In addition to formal training, animal control experts recommend pursuing postsecondary studies in law enforcement and establishing relationships with professionals in the field by volunteering at a local animal shelter or a local chapter of the Humane Society.

What Will My Job Duties Be?

As an animal cop you must ensure public compliance with animal control laws. Your job duties may include capturing stray or dangerous animals, investigating complaints about mistreatment or neglect, enforcing licensing requirements for pets, and collecting and disposing of dead animals. You may also have to euthanize animals if euthanasia was part of your training. Supporting duties and skills include record keeping, map reading, and interacting with the public. Municipal police departments and state animal control agencies are your primary employment options.

What Types of Animal Cop Training Programs are Available?

Community colleges, high school adult education programs, and some state agencies offer animal control courses or certificate programs. The American Humane Association (AHA) and the National Animal Control Association (NACA) also offer these programs. All address laws on control, care, and protection of animals, varieties and breeds, animal management practices, and use of capture and restraint equipment. More in-depth programs consider animal anatomy and behavior, common diseases, investigation techniques, shelter design, and euthanasia.

While degree programs specifically in animal control are not available, you can pursue an associate's degree or bachelor's degree in criminal justice or police science. These programs can help aspiring animal cops acquire relevant knowledge for a career in law enforcement, such as communication skills, interviewing techniques, and investigation skills.

What Can I Expect to Earn?

In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that animal control workers earned a median annual salary of $33,450. The BLS also noted that it expects employment opportunities in this field to grow 6% during the 2014-2024 decade.

What Are Some Related Careers?

Animal care workers provide for animals in a variety of settings, such as shelters, farms, pet hotels, and more. They are responsible for giving animals food and water, grooming them, keeping them healthy, and exercising them. These professionals must have a high school degree.

Police officers and animal cops share many similarities in the basics of their job. Police officers respond to emergencies and apprehend criminals. They enforce laws for public safety similar to how animal control officers enforce humane laws. You will need to graduate from the police academy to gain employment.

Jailers run prisons, institutions designed to house criminals away from the general public in the hopes of rehabilitation. They provide for the prisoners' basic needs and ensure they are prevented from escaping. You will need a high school diploma for this job.

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