Animal Control Officer: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for animal control officers. Get the facts about education, job duties and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Animal Care degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is An Animal Control Officer?

Animal control officers investigate reports that animals have attacked other animals or people. They also investigate cases of animal cruelty. As part of their duties they may question people, assess animals for signs of medical concern, such as injury or malnutrition. In such cases they may also have to make arrangements for the animal to receive medical care. They are also responsible for catching stray animals. In the event that they identify a rabid animal they may need to euthanize it.

Education Required High school diploma or equivalent
Training Required On-the-job training
Key Responsibilities Listening skills, communication skills, critical thinking and negotiation skills
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%*
Median Salary (2015) $33,450*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Job Duties of an Animal Control Officer?

As an animal control worker, you investigate reports of animal mistreatment, remove abused animals from homes, control dangerous animals, collect strays and assist injured animals. It's your duty to protect animals by ensuring the prosecution of abuse and neglect cases. In the process of charging such cases, you might carry out investigations, interview witnesses, collect evidence and testify in court.

You may track down loose animals and keep the wild animal population in your area under control. When you pick up animals, you'll ensure that they get necessary medical treatments or are returned to their owners.

You might keep records, enforce legal regulations and interact with the public. Laws about keeping dogs on leashes in public areas or obtaining pet licenses are under your jurisdiction. You may teach people about animal welfare through public service events or by distributing educational materials.

How Do I Prepare For This Job?

The minimum education requirement is a high school diploma. Local or state laws may dictate specific training and certification needed to become an animal control officer. Training is offered by government agencies, colleges and professional organizations.

Some cities and states offer training programs for animal control officers. If you're a new recruit, you might take a basic course that provides training in animal identification, transportation, handling and safety. You may be required to pass a written and a practical exam upon completion of the course. Continuing education is typically required for officers in order to provide updates on current laws and techniques.

At the college level, options include certificate and associate degree programs in animal care and management, animal behavior or veterinary technology. You could also consider earning an associate or bachelor's degree in law enforcement, or taking relevant classes in police investigation.

The National Animal Control Association (NACA) offers a training academy that may be taken by anyone over the age of 18. The NACA academy offers three levels of training. The first level covers animal behavior, identification, first aid, capture techniques, legal procedures, safety and care. Level two provides professional training in public relations, laws and crime scene handling. The third level consists of four workshops on the topics of proper bite stick and pepper spray use, chemical immobilization and euthanasia.

Regardless of what type of education you complete, you'll need proper training to handle animals that may be sick, injured or aggressive. Good communication skills are also helpful in dealing with people who may be looking for a lost pet or who've been bitten by an animal. You'll also need an understanding of the laws regarding animal welfare and control.

What Can I Expect to Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that animal control workers earned a median annual wage of $33,450 in 2015. According to the BLS, the middle salary range for animal control workers in 2015 was $26,350 to $42,360.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Police, detectives and private detectives all have similarities to animal control officers. A degree isn't necessarily required to enter law enforcement, though a police academy must be completed before beginning work. Like animal control officers, police, detectives and private detectives investigate reports, question witnesses, collect evidence, and then act on the evidence they find. While for animal control officers this may mean removing an abused animal from a home and getting it medical attention, police and detectives may assist a person who's been abused, arrest the perpetrator and file criminal charges. Private detectives investigate matters of importance to their clients and then present the evidence they uncover to their clients. Their role is similar because they investigate claims and collect evidence. Private detectives don't always have law enforcement experience, and an associate's or bachelor's degree may be necessary for some roles.

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