What Does an Animal Health Inspector Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image shows a farm scene with horses, chickens, a cat, with a farmer, doctor, and health inspector on the farm as well. Text reads:

Image by Hugo Lin © The Balance 2019

Animal health inspectors ensure that animals are kept in safe environments where they're not being abused or neglected. Their primary goal is to ensure that all facilities are operating in compliance with state and federal laws regarding animal health, safety, and welfare. All areas housing or processing animals must meet stringent requirements.

Animal Health Inspector Duties & Responsibilities

Animal health inspectors are responsible for the following:

  • Inspecting various facilities including livestock markets, hatcheries, pet dealers, animal shelters, production facilities, research laboratories, feedlots, and quarantine facilities
  • Assessing and evaluating the animals and their environment to ensure compliance with various rules and regulations such as sanitation standards and disease laws
  • Delivering quarantines issued by state veterinarians on animals that are diseased or not in compliance with health standards
  • Working with state veterinarians in testing animals
  • Explaining, both verbally and in writing, laws and regulations to those involved in raising, selling, transporting, and caring of livestock and other animals
  • Preparing and maintaining reports, files, and written correspondence
  • Testifying at hearings related to violations of state and federal laws
  • Participating in training other animal health inspectors

Inspectors are generally assigned to monitor cases in a particular region. They issue licenses to breeders, pet stores, and rescue groups in that area. They are also involved with investigating and shutting down any unlicensed or otherwise illegal animal operations that are found to be conducting business in their territory.

Just like health inspectors for human facilities coordinate with healthcare providers, animal health inspectors coordinate with veterinarians. They assist with disease testing on animal populations at inspected facilities and may be involved with the collection of a variety of samples for the testing process including blood, milk, body fluids, and tissue. Animal health inspectors also give recommendations to animal facilities to improve their biosecurity measures and reduce the incidence of disease.

Animal Health Inspector Salary

There is no specific salary information for an animal health inspector. However, Payscale provides the salary for a health inspector as follows:

  • Median Annual Salary: $42,994 ($20.38/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $67,000 ($35.16/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $30,000 ($14.79/hour)

Source: Payscale, 2019

Education, Training, & Certification

To become an animal health inspector, you should have the following education and experience:

  • Academia: Most job postings for animal health inspector positions call for applicants to hold an associate degree at minimum, though most candidates chosen for inspector roles will hold a bachelor's degree in a field such as zoology, veterinary medicine, or animal science. Some inspectors have also earned their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degrees and are licensed veterinarians. Individual states may have additional requirements of their own—for example, New York requires that inspectors must be licensed as veterinary technicians.
  • Experience: Most inspectors have extensive practical animal experience, particularly working in a veterinary or livestock management setting, before formally pursuing this career path. Laboratory and computer skills are also useful.

Animal health inspectors must also be very familiar with all legal directives relating to the humane treatment of animals, particularly the Animal Welfare Act. Local, state, and federal regulations may be applicable to the animal health casework completed by the inspector.

Animal health inspectors with advanced degrees, such as those who have a DVM, or those who have advanced to a managerial or supervisory role, will likely earn much higher levels of compensation commensurate with experience.

Animal Health Inspector Skills & Competencies

The skills necessary to perform this job effectively include:

  • Physical Stamina: The ability to properly handle large, frightened, or sick animals, for example, when collecting samples or transferring animals to a diagnostic facility
  • Knowledge of Animal Welfare Issues: The ability to consider animal welfare issues when performing an inspection
  • Verbal and Written Communication Skills: The ability to write and present reports, communicate state laws and regulations to those responsible for an animal's welfare, and testify in court
  • Interpersonal Skills: The ability to work as a team with others such as veterinarians, pet owners, and animal business owners
  • Evaluation and Assessment Skills: The ability to assess the condition of the animal and its environment to confirm that it is in compliance with all local and state laws and regulations
  • Organization Skills: The ability to organize all inspection findings and lab results to prepare reports and other evidence that may be required when testifying in court

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of agricultural inspector positions are with the federal government, state government, or slaughtering and processing facilities. States with large farming or agriculture industries are likely to have the highest number of job opportunities.

Animal health inspectors may readily transition to a variety of animal law enforcement positions, including wildlife inspector roles.

Work Environment

Animal health inspectors are usually required to travel extensively throughout their designated territory to investigate agricultural facilities, so it is not uncommon for the position to be a combination of fieldwork and office work, frequently during non-business hours when situations warrant.

It is important that animal health inspectors carefully follow proper safety precautions when working around animals or inspecting facilities, as there is always a chance of injury when working with unpredictable animals that may be under extreme stress.

Work Schedule

Animal health inspectors work in offices, laboratories, and in the field. Work hours may vary according to when situations require a visit.

How to Get the Job

APPLY

Look at resources such as Indeed, jobsgalore, and jobrapido for the latest job postings. These sites may also provide tips for resume and cover letter writing, as well as techniques for landing and mastering an interview.

GET EXPERIENCE

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers training programs to qualified applicants. Also, many U.S. states have animal health inspector programs, such as the Municipal Animal Inspector Program in Massachusetts.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People interested in a career as an animal health inspector may also want to consider these similar jobs, along with their median annual salary: