Career as an Animal Control Officer

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So what is an animal control officer, and what do they do? Many people think “dog catcher” when they hear the term animal control officer, but there’s a lot more to the job than chasing stray dogs around the neighborhood.

Animal control officers are responsible for making sure that the humans who own or keep animals as pets are following the rules. They also look out for the welfare of animals, and make sure that they’re not being neglected or abused.

Animal cruelty laws are on the books for a reason, and there are serious consequences to mistreating our furry and feathered friends.

Although this job can be difficult at times, and isn’t typically a high-paying profession, it has many rewards, including the fact that you’ll be helping to rescue stray and neglected animals.

You’ll be able to work outdoors, interact with the public, and be able to educate the public about animal related issues. And best of all, you’ll be working with animals every day of the work week.

About the Job

In truth, the title of animal control officer can actually be applied to a variety of different jobs within specialized fields, such as humane officers, animal cruelty investigators, shelter operators, rabies control investigators, livestock officers and more.

There was a time that animal control officers were frowned upon in the pet world. They had a public image as “bad guys” who went around the neighborhood rounding up carefree mutts who were just running loose and trying to have a good time. And these “dog roundups” often ended with the animals in question be euthanized, which only added to the negative perception.

But in truth, animal control officers are only working to save and protect as many stray and neglected animals as they can. They are the police of the animal world, and stray animals aren’t carefree misfits out having fun in the neighborhood.

Strays are at increased risk of injury, disease, starvation and even death. Packs of wild dogs have even been known to attack humans, and the threat of rabies is ever present as well. And so the animal control officer is responsible for capturing these animals and bringing them in off the streets, and providing them with food and shelter.


While it’s an unfortunate fact that some of these animals have to be humanely euthanized if they’re not claimed by their owners or adopted into a new family, this is a better end than the one that awaits them on the streets of our towns and cities.

In most cases, animal control officers are employed by local or county municipalities. Due to the dangers inherent in the job, they are authorized to carry firearms in many states. They typically wear uniforms just like regular police, and they can work in a variety of environments, from animal shelters to farms and ranches, and inside an office as well.

And they don’t just deal with dogs and cats – officers are also expected to be able to handle and deal with horses, birds, reptiles, coyotes, foxes, possums, squirrels, skunks and a variety of other animals as well.

The duties of animal control officers very, depending on the type of job. Some duties include;

  • In addition to helping animals in need, animal control officers are also responsible for enforcing public health codes, monitoring public safety as it relates to animals, and providing law-enforcement services when needed.
  • Rounding up stray cats and dogs and transporting them to the local animal shelter .
  • Going out to investigate calls regarding animal abuse, dog bites, and stray dogs gone missing.
  • elping to manage local animal shelters.
  • elping with the care of impounded animals, including dogs, cats, wild animals and even reptiles.
  • Dealing with the general public, and helping with the adoption of impounded animals.
  • Euthanizing unadoptable, unwanted, and terminally ill animals.
  • Testifying in court during animal abuse and other animal-related cases.

Working conditions

As with most animal-related careers, you can expect to spend a good deal of time outdoors as an animal control officer. Typically you’ll be involved with the local community, you’ll work closely with animal shelters in your area, and you’ll be spending a lot of time in kennels and private homes at various times during you workday.

As you might expect, there is a lot of driving involved with the job as well, and you’ll be spending much of your time in a vehicle of some type. This will mean being outside in all types of weather conditions, from the heat of summer to the cold of winter, and everything in between.

Another aspect of being an animal control officer is the fact that you’ll likely be spending time in unpleasant, dirty, or even dangerous situations as you investigate animal abuse cases.

Many pet owners become angry and belligerent when confronted, and will object to having their animals removed from the home. This is another reason why officers carry weapons in many states around the country.

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