How to Become An Animal Cop

Also known as animal welfare officers and animal control officers, animal cops perform two primary functions;

  • Look after the welfare of neglected and abused animals and

  • Attend to emergency situations where wild and dangerous animals need to be controlled or captured.

There is a third facet to their role as well and that is educating the public at large about animal rights. A bit more about an animal cop’s role in the following paragraphs


Becoming an animal cop may not involve an extensive post-high school education however there is no uniform code across the 50 states on becoming an animal cop.
How to Become An Animal Cop

Tasks and Responsibilities of Animal Cops

An animal cop performs the following tasks

  • Respond to animal emergency calls
  • Protect both wild and domestic animals
  • Deal with animals in a shelter
  • Discover and investigate dog fighting and other prohibited animal fighting instances
  • Discover and investigate animal cruelty and neglect cases
  • May confiscate animals
  • Issue citations and/or fines
  • In some cases, may even arrest those found to be in violation of animal welfare laws
  • Take animal owners to court for animal welfare law violations
  • Deal with stray dogs
  • Document cases

Some of the duties falling under an animal control officer are:

  • Respond to emergency calls involving incidents of human contact with wild animals

  • Capturing wild and dangerous animals for the safety of human population

Animal cops are also advocates of animal rights. They may be invited to various public forums like schools, town halls for better understanding of animal welfare laws. Their advocacy may help animal owners take better care of them.

Is it for you?

Have no romantic notions about the job, animal cops deal with neglected and abused animals which in some cases are impossible to treat and rehabilitate. They may also have to administer euthanasia. Therefore before deciding on how to become an animal cop, it is better to first decide whether the job is for you or not.

So what makes a successful animal cop? The following personal traits, qualities and habits may indicate that the job is for you:

  • Compassion
  • Patience
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Physical stamina
  • Detail oriented
  • Customer-service skills

How to Become an Animal Cop?

Becoming an animal cop may not involve an extensive post-high school education; however, there is no uniform code across the 50 states on becoming an animal cop. Each state, county, and city may have its own animal welfare laws and their regulation may involve different levels of academic and practical training.

Generally, you would need a high school diploma or GED, to qualify for an animal control officer position. Additional academic requirements may include community college level courses in animal science and criminology. A bachelor’s degree in these two majors may further improve your chances of getting hired. On-the-job training matters a lot in this line of work as there is more to animal welfare and control than theory.


Some states may require animal cops to be certified. These certificates may be offered at high schools, community colleges, and other public institutes. For example, the Certification Course for Massachusetts Animal Control Officers is provided by the Animal Control Officers’ Association of Massachusetts (ACOAM) with the support of many other organizations like the Humane Society of the United States, etc.

The certification course is intensive which is taught over 10 weeks. Subjects taught in the course include:

  • Self defense
  • Cruelty statutes and investigating cruelty complaints
  • 4th Amendment and exceptions to the warrant
  • Crime scene investigations
  • Courtroom procedures
  • Record keeping and report writing
  • Local bylaws and ordinances
  • Rabies protocol
  • Animal health inspector duties
  • Dog bite prevention
  • Wildlife issues
  • Livestock and exotic animal handling
  • Animal capture techniques and strategies
  • Equipment handling

Successful participants will have a one year membership in ACOAM and the National Animal Control Association (NACA). These credentials may not be mandatory for employment, but they may help with the applicant’s chances of getting hired as an animal cop.

In addition, those with certifications in chemical capture and euthanasia may also be preferred by employers.

How and Where to Apply

If you are interested in helping animals and the general public, consider becoming an animal cop. A good place to start would be by contacting your local animal agency for animal control officer positions. To illustrate, the National Animal Control Association (NACA) hires those who fulfill academic requirements, are certified and have cleared their background checks and mandatory drug screening.  Holding of a valid driver’s license is also necessary.

You may also contact your local police station as some law enforcement departments have animal control units. Officers working for police animal control units may have the duties, responsibilities and powers of regular police officers.


States with the highest employment level in this occupation:



Employment per thousand jobs

Location quotient

Hourly mean wage

Annual mean wage

California 16600.111.2618.1337720
Florida 11300.141.6817.9737370
Illinois 9600.161.9217.937240
Texas 7600.070.7816.6234570
New York 6500.070.8520.1241840

Source: bls.gov

Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:What does an animal cop do?

A:An animal cop is responsible for duties such as capturing stray animals, investigating issues of animal cruelty and taking the necessary measures, enforcing licensing laws, caring for animals under their supervision and rescuing trapped animals among other things.

Q:Do you want to be an Animal Cop?

A:If the answer to that is yes, here are a few things you need to know. The requirements to become an animal cop vary according to states and cities. But as a general rule, for entry level positions, you may require a high school degree, an extensive background test including a drug test, a polygraph test and a clean record. Some employers might also require you to have attained advanced degrees in Animal Science, Administration of Justice or Animal Management.

Q:How do I become an Animal Control Officer

A:It is recommended that you take up animal science courses at your college and attend trainings conducted by recognized organizations such as the National Animal Control Association (NACA). Some states may require certification for this job. A training program may teach you about animal CPR, first aid, euthanasia and animal sheltering etc.

Q:What degree do you need to become a animal cop?

A:The degree you need to become an animal cop will depend upon which state you live in. Some states will qualify you for the opposition with a high school diploma while in some states you may need a college degree. You can study important areas such as animal management and animal science to help prepare for the field.

Q:What are the requirements to become a animal cop?

A:Each state has its own requirements for animal cops. You will need a high school diploma or a GED certificate at least. You must also be older than 18, or 21 in some states to apply. To qualify for an advanced position, it is recommended that you have a bachelor degree in a relevant field such as animal science and management.

Q:Why become a animal cop?

A:If you love animals, hate cruelty to all living things, and want to be in a position to stop this treatment of animals then this career may suit you. Apart from a sense of satisfaction and achievement you may get by helping helpless animals, the job also comes with monetary benefits. As of May 2012, animal cops had an hourly median salary $12.25 to $19.78 per hour. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Q:What do animal cop do?

A:Animal cops perform a variety of tasks such as the following: investigate cases of animal cruelty, collect evidence, and write reports. These professionals work for the welfare of animals and make sure stray animals are provided shelter and food. Animal cops are aware of the legal procedures and legal codes of the state, and educate the public about animal control laws. (Source: O*Net Online)

Q:How long does it take to become a animal cop?

A:It can take you 1-2 years to become an animal cop. In most states, you will need a high school diploma and must complete a training program to prepare for the career. It can take you more than 3 years if you opt for a bachelor degree. The exact duration will basically depend upon which program you enroll in.

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