How to Become an Animal Control Officer

Discover what skills and training are essential to master the duties of an animal control officer.


Animal control officers need more than just a catchpole and a crate. Their job requires a complex blend of skills – including the ability to handle animals safely and skillfully, and to navigate emotionally charged situations with people.

Charged with the dual roles of protecting the public, as well as animals themselves, officers deal with a dazzling number of scenarios. They capture dangerous animals that may cause a safety hazard. To ensure animals are cared for properly, they inspect related businesses such as pet shops, grooming kennels, and circuses. As part of public outreach, they often provide education on the importance of spaying and neutering, offer advice on behavioral problems, and promote adoption.

On the legal front, animal control officers enforce all local, state, and some federal codes involving animals.

“In situations where animals are mistreated, officers may file charges against the offender and testify in court as expert witnesses,” says Misha Goodman, director of the Iowa City-Coralville Animal Care and Adoption Center and former president of the National Animal Control Association. “They may respond to very dangerous animal violations such as dogfighting investigations.”

Officers often start their careers by getting experience dealing with animals as a shelter volunteer, or working in a vet office or kennel.

“Some study animal science or criminal justice as a prerequisite,” Goodman says, noting that the general minimum hire age for an officer is 21. “Some will attend national training like the National Animal Control Association training to become a certified officer in the field,” a requirement in many states.

In addition to knowing how to capture and handle a wide variety of animals – including marine animals, wildlife, and exotics – advanced officers have training and certification in euthanasia, chemical immobilization (safely immobilizing animals for capture), CPR, first aid, large-animal capture, disaster sheltering, animal-behavioral evaluation, and cruelty investigation.

With such wide-ranging duties, animal control officers need to think on their feet.

“Officers never know what kind of situation may occur,” Goodman says.

For their safety – and that of those around them – problem solving in difficult situations is perhaps their most powerful asset.

Interested in a career with dogs? Learn more with Careers With Dogs: The Comprehensive Guide to Finding Your Dream Job


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Give us your opinion Give us your opinion on How to Become an Animal Control Officer

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R   Overland Park, Kansas

9/6/2014 1:55:16 PM

But how do I apply???

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illwallah   chicago, Illinois

7/16/2014 6:43:53 AM

How do I become a animal cop. Where can I go

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Jenai   Sonora, California

7/14/2014 8:39:29 PM

animal Behavior college trains in this area also criminal justice classes and volunteering in shelters or for a vets office , all good places to start , and my advice to anyone in college or high school , Your age group is the number one age group to dump dogs in high kill shelters , please do not get a pet until you are done with school and are ready to settle down , unless you can comit to an animal for life they have no business with you until you can , please tell your friends and help us minimize the number of twenty somethings abandoning their dogs and cats in high kill shelters

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evelyn   kunkletown, Pennsylvania

10/27/2013 11:07:01 PM

How do I become an animal control officer? it is my top priority to find out how to become an animal control officer.

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