Humane Law Enforcement Officer: A Career Profile

Job Duties, Education Requirements and Salary Outlook for Animal Cops

Animal Rights Supporters Protest Romanian Plan to Destroy Street Dogs
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People who are interested in careers in criminology and criminal justice, especially law enforcement, are often drawn to their jobs because of a strong desire to serve and help others. Among them is a special group of people who work to serve and protect some of the most helpless members of our society: our pets and other animals. Humane law enforcement officers and agents, more commonly known as animal cops, serve society by helping those who can't help themselves.

Animals and humans have worked and lived together throughout history, and though some societies may value their domesticated friends more than others, there's no doubt that we all have a special fondness for so many of our four-legged buddies. If you need proof, look no further than the special relationship between police K-9 handlers and their partners. Naturally, we would want to establish a way to enforce laws that ensure our animals are treated fairly and humanely.

Job Functions and Work Environment of Animal Cops

Humane law enforcement officers are typically fully trained and empowered police officers. Their primary purpose is to enforce laws related to the humane treatment of animals. They investigate allegations of animal abuse and ensure pets are well cared for and protected.

In some cases, they may take steps to remove abused or endangered animals from homes and owners. They may also file charges and arrest those accused of cruelty to animals.

The job of a humane law enforcement officer often includes:

  • Investigating animal abuse cases
  • Enforcing laws related to the care and keeping of animals
  • Regulating industries that work with and use animals
  • Writing reports
  • Preparing and executing warrants
  • Arresting suspected criminals
  • Issuing civil fines
  • Responding to calls for service

Animal cops may be called upon to look into a host of issues related to animal cruelty, including animal hoarding, dog fighting, puppy mills, rodeos and circuses, and even how farm animals are treated. In short, if it involves the potential for harm to animals, humane law enforcement officers look into it.

Humane law enforcement officers and agents work primarily outdoors and on patrol. They work very closely with all kinds of different animals and interact with a variety of different kinds of people. They may at times work from an office while they produce reports and follow up on investigations, but their primary duties are performed in the field.

Depending on the state or jurisdiction, animal cops may work directly for a police department or sheriff's office, an animal control office, a local humane society or animal shelter, or for an organization such as the ASPCA. While many jurisdictions invest their humane law enforcement officers with full police powers, some may serve as community service or animal control officers with limited enforcement authority.

Education and Skill Requirements

Animal cops must have a strong working knowledge of problems related to animals and working with animals. They must be able to safely interact with a variety of different animals.

Training or education in animal behavior or science is very beneficial to a successful career as a humane law enforcement officer. A bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a four-year degree in criminology may also be helpful. In any case, a high school diploma or GED will be necessary.

Animal cops with full police powers will be required to attend a police academy and become certified officers, though this is not a requirement for non-sworn control officers. All humane officers and animal control officers must receive specialized training for job tasks specific to their field. They will also likely need to undergo a thorough background check.

Many people have strong emotions when it comes to the care and treatment of their animals, especially when they recognize they may lose them. Because of this, animal cops must have very strong interpersonal communication skills and be able to deal effectively with highly emotional individuals.

It's very important to recognize that all law enforcement jobs are inherenelty dangerous, and humane law enforcement is no different. Compassion, understanding and communication skills are absolute must-have abilities in order to stay safe on the job.

Job Growth and Salary Outlook

According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook, jobs for animal control workers are expected to grow at an average annual rate of 6% from 2014 to 2024. Through attrition and turnover, more opportunities will become available.

Across the country, animal control officers earn around $38,000 annually. Sworn law enforcement positions earn slightly more, but salary and earning potential can vary wildly depending on the employing agency and location. To find a job as a humane law enforcement agent or animal control officer, check with your local shelter or humane society.

Is a Career as a Humane Officer Right for You?

If you are interested in meaningful jobs in criminal justice or criminology and have a deep affection and love for animals, working as an animal control officer or humane law enforcement agent is a great career option. In fact, a job as an animal cop may very well prove to be the perfect criminology career.