Animal Control Officers

What is an Animal Control Officer?

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. 

Want to learn more about Animal Control Officers? Check out our Animal Control Officer FAQs below.


Animal Control Officer FAQs

Animal Control Officer

What is a Humane Officer?

Humane officers investigate situations of animal abuse and neglect as well as enforce anti-neglect and anti-cruelty laws. In California, humane officers must be employed by a humane society or SPCA.

Please vist our Humane Officer page for more information.

What does an Animal Control Officer do?

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.

What preparation will help me become an Animal Control Officer?

When available, we would recommend the two-week Basic Animal Law Enforcement/Humane Officer academy that is offered through the San Diego Humane Society, or Santa Rosa Junior College and taught at Marin Humane. These in-person trainings may be suspended due to COVID. Check our CalAnimals Training Page or San Diego Humane for updates. Additional training that would be beneficial is the PC 832 Course in Laws of Arrest, Search and Seizure which is a POST Certified 40-hour course. You can attend the class either through certain local public safety training centers that are POST certified, or at some community colleges or junior colleges which are also POST certified.

Interested in becoming an Animal Control Officer?

Agencies that employ animal control officers will have the job opening posted on their website In addition, please be sure to check out the CalAnimals Career Center for openings around the state. The minimum requirements to become an ACO vary from agency to agency. Typical requirements include a high school diploma (or GED equivalent), a California Driver’s License, experience in enforcement of rules and regulations, and/or animal handling experience. One pathway to becoming an ACO is to obtain employment in another area of an agency that employs ACOs, such as an animal care and control organization or animal services division, and gain knowledge and experience working with animals which will fulfill the minimum requirements for promotion to an Animal Control Officer. Prior experience as an animal technician in a veterinary practice may also meet the minimum qualifications for some agencies. In some cases, college semester units in veterinary science, biology, or criminal justice may be substituted for some of the required experience. Many municipal agencies have robust training programs that offer all the required training in-house. For instance, the City of Los Angeles has a 6-month training program for new officers that covers the knowledge and skills necessary to be a successful ACO. If you do not have prior paid work experience with animals, starting at a more entry-level position in an animal welfare agency is a great way to begin your career working with animals. Many animal control officers began their path working in the kennels, clinic or front office, before going into animal control fieldwork.

Looking for Training Opportuniites?

Visit our Trainings and Education page.

Interested in Animal Control Officer Certification (CACO)?

Visit our Animal Control Officer Certification Program page.

Humane Officer