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Animal Control Officer


We've all seen it, a dog left in the car in a parking lot on a hot July day. Or what about people taunting birds in public parks--both of these incidents can warrant a fine. Animal control officers work with local communities to protect both wild and domestic animals. They do everything from removing abused pets from homes to tracking down and capturing diseased wildlife that is a danger to humans and other animals. They meet with pet owners, speak with neighbors, and investigate claims of abuse. If they find an abused pet, they can issue fines, and even take the owner to court.

Animal control officers strive to promote the safe treatment of animals, and protect those community members who cannot speak for themselves. They try to educate people about animal rights and protection services offered by the community. They encourage spaying and neutering, explain the dangers of abandonment, and look for ways to redistribute their former strays into caring homes before those pets are destroyed for lack of space and money.

They may also care for the animals they rescue, especially if they work out of a pound or kennel. Each action taken must be well documented, in case a case goes to trial, or an offender keeps repeating.
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  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in a job in animal control? These individuals must be strong, healthy, and have a love for all animals. They should be keen observers who notice details, as well as good communicators. Animal control officers also need to be able to communicate with animals, even hostile ones. They should have a good understanding of law and its role in animal rights. They should be interested in problem-solving, conflict resolution, and negotiation. Honesty, compassion, maturity and integrity are tremendous assets to a successful animal control officer.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Respond to complaints from citizens
  • Track animals in all environments, at all times of day or night
  • Explain the bylaw to the violators
  • Try to reach an understanding and obtain compliance with the bylaw
  • Enforce bylaws by issuing orders to correct problems
  • Arrange for action to be taken when orders are not followed (removing animals from homes)
  • Enforce bylaws with tickets, summonses and subpoenas
  • Prepare related legal documents
  • Appear in court and give testimony
  • The typical day will involve listening to complaints from community members, documenting those meetings and following up on the issues. If there is in fact a bylaw violation, animal control officers will take whatever measures necessary to remedy the situation. Some animal control officers patrol public areas, watching for violations. The job permits for work outdoors, as well as travel throughout the community.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Animal control officers are employed by state or county governments. Some work out of police divisions while others work in animal services departments. Animal control officers can work alone, or they can work in teams, depending on the size of the community. Because they are often exposed to vicious, diseased or starving animals, they are at risk of bites and infection. They work both indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions, and they can work shifts, overnight and on weekends and holidays.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Anyone trained as an animal control officer has quite a few options. There is always the possibility of moving up the ranks, advancing to supervisor positions. There is also working with the police force, moving on to law school or veterinary school. Animal control officers can also become animal rights activists.

  Educational Paths  
While it is possible to get hired with little or no experience, it is always helpful to have some previous experience or education. Experience volunteering with the SPCA or Humane Society or in a related administration or regulatory occupation is helpful. Completion of a college program or courses in law and security is also beneficial.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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