How to Be an Animal Control Officer

By Eric Hammer

If you love animals, then you may well want to look into becoming an animal control officer. As an animal control officer, you will have a multi faceted job which involves a variety of different responsibilities, including enforcing laws relating to animals, visiting pet stores and zoos and of course collecting animals off the street which may be lost or wild.

In other words, an animal control officer actually wears a number of different hats throughout her day and she is responsible needs to be able to handle all of these jobs cogently. You also need to be comfortable working with people as they will often be quite distraught when they contact you to ask about a particular animal that may have taken up residence in their back yard.

However, for all that an animal control officer must know a great deal about many different things, the job is not considered to be particularly glamorous or exciting. The work is often hard, with long hours working outdoors. However, if you happen to enjoy working with animals, then none of that is likely to matter to you.

How Much Can You Make?

According to education Portal, the average salary for an animal control officer as of 2011 is $29,370 per year. This number can of course go up or down depending on experience and where you happen to be working.

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Remember that as an animal control officer, your primary job is to enforce the law when it comes to all kinds of animals. This means you may occasionally find yourself in confrontation with people keeping illegal pets such as venomous snakes or alligators in their homes (yes, people really do keep both of these kinds of animals as pets, not realizing or fully appreciating that they are quite dangerous).

You will also need to know how to deal with a wide variety of different kinds of animals as you may be called on to pick up a stray dog one day and an escaped lion from the zoo the next day. Therefore, you need to have a solid education in how animals think and react so that you know how to handle them safely out in the field.

Finally, as an animal control officer, you need to enjoy working with animals but not be so attached to them that you have trouble letting go. Sadly, a part of your job may be to put animals to sleep if they are too sick to be cared for or if homes cannot be found for them. Therefore, it's important that, while you care for animals, you can be dispassionate enough to realize that they are animals and not people.

Qualifications / Requirements

The requirements for animal control officers vary from state to state and from locality to locality. Some areas will hire an animal control officer who has nothing more than a high school diploma while others will require a bachelor's degree in criminology, veterinary medicine or some other related field. It is rare however for an animal control officer to need to take a master's degree as well.

First Steps

Start by contacting your city civil service department and asking what the requirements are for becoming an animal control officer. Then, try and talk to some people who are already on the job and ask them what they recommend doing in order to get a job in your city. This is important as the rules in each city are different and there are also often unwritten rules which you won't find out about unless you speak to others who are already in the profession.


Check out these helpful resources to learn more about becoming an animal control officer:

Dog Channel: How to Become an Animal Control Officer - A good basic introduction to what it takes to become an animal control officer.

The National Animal Control Association - A national organization dedicated to working with animal control officers all over the country.

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