How to Become an Animal Control Officer

If you're an animal advocate, you might be interested in learning about how to become an animal control officer. This position involves more than just catching strays. You will be helping animals that have been lost or abandoned as well as those that have been abused or neglected. You will actually be enforcing your local animal laws by investigating reports of animal mistreatment, rescuing animals in distress, removing dangerous animals from the public and helping to oversee an animal shelter. You could also be called on to inspect kennels, pet shops and circuses to make sure animals are being treated well. So the job is a varied one with lots of different responsibilities.

Education & Training/Certification

Animal control officers must be high school graduates. Employers will also look favorably on candidates who either an associate or bachelor degree's in animal science, criminal justice, law enforcement or veterinary science.

Each state has different requirements for certification, so you need to make sure you know what mandated training is necessary in the state where you want to work. To find out, check with you local animal shelter or humane society. You can also get in touch with a police station or health department in your area. Even if your state doesn't require it, you should become a certified animal investigator, peace officer, cruelty agent, or humane society representative. 

Along with the required training, you will benefit from getting both Animal CPR and First Aid certification. You can find such training through the Red Cross. You can also get additional training by taking courses offered by a variety animal advocacy groups, FEMA, and other government organizations.  In addition, your local Office of Emergency Management can help you learn the strategies for being prepared to help animals in the case of an emergency. 

Getting a Job

Once you have completed your training, it's time to look for a job. Start with your local animal rescue shelters to see if they have any job openings. If not, you can look for related work in other facilities that handle animals. Once you have located a potential employment opportunity, either send your resume or fill out an application, depending on what is requested. Then when you are called for an interview, make sure you are prepared and that you emphasize all your relevant experience working with animals.

Tips/Advice

Keep up with the latest developments and regulations in the field of animal control. A few websites with helpful information for animal control officers are www.americanhumane.org, www.animalshelter.org and www.acofunstop.com. You'll also want to stay in good shape and familiarize yourself with the types of equipment you'll be using as an animal control officer.

Take every opportunity you can to work with animals. Consider working at a zoo, kennel, grooming salon or at an animal park. Consult with someone who currently works as an animal control officer. Ask him if you can ride along with him to get a feel for what the job is really like. Ask your mentor if he has any tips or advice about the job he would be willing to share with you. Talking with veterinarians can also be helpful since they can help you understand the best way to handle various animals. See if your local vet will let you intern. The experience will be very beneficial when you start looking for a job as an animal control officer. Volunteering at an animal shelter is also a good idea.