Animal control officers have a very wide range of duties making their jobs both exciting and difficult. Animal control officers are employed by city, county, or federal governments. They are responsible for enforcing animal related ordinances, investigating complaints and suspected cruelty, and keeping the public safe from stray, trapped, or injured wild and domestic animals.
Animal control officers interact with the public educating pet owners about local ordinances regulating pets and domestic farm animals and issuing citations when appropriate. They issue licenses and perform inspections of animal facilities including grooming businesses, breeder premises, pet shops, and training facilities.
Animal control officers also investigate and gather evidence in cases of neglect or abuse of animals. They frequently testify in court in such cases and also have the power to remove animals from abusive or dangerous homes. People working in animal control may see some truly terrible things and must possess the strength to proceed professionally in the worst type of situations.
Animal control duties include the safe trapping and relocation of wild animals that wander into urban areas, the safe capture and holding of stray domestic animals, and the humane euthanasia of badly injured wild and domestic animals. Many of the more common duties of an urban animal control officer take place at local humane societies or shelters.
In animal bite cases, animal control officers enforce quarantine periods according to local or state laws and also prepare samples for Rabies testing. These officers may be called upon after hours to assist police at crime scenes when an animal is present.
Background requirements for different animal control jobs may vary by position and location. A high school education, good physical fitness, good communication skills, and animal handling experience are the most basic requirements. More qualified individuals have a college degree in an animal-related field or criminology. Some states also require certification by the National Animal Control Association.
The job of animal control officer varies from preparing legal statements for court to reuniting lost pets with their owners to performing euthanasia for a suffering wild animal. These jobs are physically demanding at times and require the ability to improvise. Interactions with the public may sometimes be highly unpleasant for animal control officers. Containing, transporting, and working with stressed and fearful animals can be dangerous, and the risk of injury is ever present. Successful animal control officers are individuals with "thick skins" and a dedication to animal welfare and public safety.
Dr. Kelly Kasum is an associate veterinarian at East Towne Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Kelly has practiced general small animal medicine and surgery in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin.