Animal Control Officer: Job Description and Career Requirements

Oct 20, 2021

Animal control officers generally require little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and certification to see if this is the right career for you.

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Essential Information

Animal control officers enforce local and regional laws concerning the care and treatment of animals. They patrol public areas looking for potential signs of distressed animals and work directly with citizens concerning animal control issues. Some officers also educate the public about animal control safety. Most entry-level positions require a high school diploma at the minimum, while some require an applicable certification or undergraduate degree.

Job Description

According to the National Animal Control Association (NACA), animal control officers work to maintain public health standards by making communities safe for both people and animals. Animal control officers are usually hired by city and county agencies, although some work for states or other branches of the federal government. Officers often respond to calls from citizens about stray animals, suspected animal cruelty, or deceased animals. Sometimes, officers have to capture or rescue animals, but other times they administer warnings or citations to citizens suspected of animal cruelty and mistreatment.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent; undergraduate degrees and certificates available
Degree Field(s) Animal sciences, veterinary sciences, or law enforcement
Licensure/Certification Voluntary certification available
Experience On-the-job training available
Key Skills Enjoy working with animals; patience; knowledge of animal control procedures and the ability to work under stress; pass drug test, background check, and have a valid driver's license
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 6% growth
Average Annual Salary (2018) $38,490

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Information from the NACA shows that most entry-level animal control officer positions entail a minimum of a high school diploma. Some agencies require additional training and education, such as an undergraduate degree or certificate related to animal sciences, veterinary sciences, or law enforcement. Related post secondary coursework includes animal behavior, animal care and management, animal nutrition, and community policing. Animal control officers are generally also required to pass drug tests and background checks and hold a driver's license.

While many animal control officers receive on-the-job training, agencies may require workers to complete accredited animal control training programs. The NACA provides training programs at different levels to accommodate workers of all backgrounds and experience levels, such as those with prior experience in the animal control industry and those without.

Lower-level training coursework covers animal first aid, evidence collection, public relations, and documentation procedures. Mid-to-upper level training coursework can include animal capture and containment strategies, cruelty investigations, animal hoarding, and puppy mills. Active animal control officers may also have to attend training courses and seminars routinely in order to stay current on topics like animal euthanasia, animal cruelty laws, and humane chemical capture techniques.

Although not required in all states, employers may prefer applicants who have been certified by recognized animal control organizations such as the NACA. To become an NACA-certified animal controller, applicants must complete the lower-level training programs, which tend to last five days. Candidates must then pass final written exams with a grade of 'B' or better.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that animal control officers will see an increase of 6%, which is as fast as average, in jobs over the 2018-2028 decade. In May 2018, animal control workers received an average yearly wage of $38,490, with the highest levels of employment in local government agencies and social advocacy groups.

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