Animal Control Officers (ACOs) are employed by governmental animal care and control agencies or private animal welfare organizations with contracts with cities or counties to provide animal control services. Officers may be a part of the law enforcement branch of the government or housed in another department. The duties of animal control officers are highly variable and include patrolling neighborhoods for stray, injured and abandoned animals, investigation of animal neglect and cruelty concerns, pick-up of deceased animals, community mediation around animal issues; such as feral cat populations, animal noise complaints or instances of animal hoarding. ACOs respond to emergency calls including injured animals, loose animals in traffic, stray livestock, investigations of bites to humans involving both domestic or wild animals, and vicious animals posing a public safety risk. ACOs generally provide 24/7 services by working shifts throughout the day or by being on call for after-hours emergencies involving animals. These emergencies include reports of injured or sick animals, assistance to law enforcement, such as responding to arrests or hospitalizations where an animal may also be involved and other urgent safety risks, including loose animals, including livestock, in traffic. Another important role of Animal Control Officers is in disaster response and coordination of evacuation of animals during an emergency.
Animal Control Officers rely on their abilities of animal handling and interpersonal skills each day to provide vital services to the community. As part of their field enforcement duties they often mediate neighborhood issues and employ creative problem-solving techniques to resolve problems. Public education on animal care and husbandry, veterinary needs, laws pertaining to animals and behavioral advice, are all part of the job responsibilities of ACOs. On an everyday basis, ACOs provide lost and found services for pets and their owners, including scanning for microchips and tracing identification and license tags.
Officers investigate reports of abandonment or animal neglect and/or cruelty, including blood sports; which may involve extensive report writing, preparation for prosecution and testimony in court. Officers enforce laws related to animals including leash laws, vaccination requirements, spaying and neutering, and dangerous animal statutes. In exigent circumstances, ACOs may have to make an immediate seizure of animals for the welfare of the animals or to protect the public from a public safety risk. When assisting law enforcement, ACOs may be called on to assist in investigations and execution of search warrants, where animals are present.
A primary role of animal control is the protection of residents and domestic animals from the threat of rabies. Enforcement of licensing requirements and investigation of bite incidents are key to this job responsibility. Officers investigate animal bites, determine the vaccination status of biting animals and place animals on quarantine, as appropriate. In more extreme cases, dangerous animal cases may involve the seizure of the animal and a hearing to determine what actions may be necessary to protect the public.
Officers are trained to recognize when animals are sick or injured, when veterinary care may be necessary, and often transport impounded animals directly to the veterinarian. Officers are trained in safe and humane animal handling techniques and proper restraint. ACOs are trained and certified to perform euthanasia by injection.
Additional regular duties of ACOs include inspections of animal businesses, such as boarding facilities, grooming facilities and pet shops. Officers often give educational presentations to groups on animal care or present at job fairs about their chosen career. Officers generally perform computer data entry, report-writing, and email communication daily. Once trained, officers patrol independently and exercise good judgment to successfully perform their jobs. The profession requires good interpersonal skills for working with the public, co-workers, volunteers, public officials and collaborating agencies and organizations.
Interested in becoming an animal control officer?
Looking for training opportunities?
Interested in Animal Control Officer Certification?
Visit our Animal Control Officer Certification Program page.