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How to Become an Animal Cruelty Investigator

Research the requirements to become an animal cruelty investigator. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in animal cruelty investigation. View article »

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  • 0:03 Should I Become an…
  • 0:40 Career Requirements
  • 1:36 Step 1: Complete…
  • 2:06 Success Tips
  • 2:39 Step 2: Earn Any…
  • 3:18 Step 3: Obtain…

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Video Transcript

Should I Become an Animal Cruelty Investigator?

Animal cruelty investigators research and follow up on reports or concerns about possible abuse or neglect of animals. Many animal cruelty investigators and similarly-titled individuals work in conjunction with or for police departments, giving them the power to arrest perpetrators of cruelty.

Animal cruelty investigators will spend much of their working hours in the field, responding to calls and complaints about animal cruelty. Most work on a full-time basis, although some night and weekend shifts may be required. Job security is offered through positions with a police force.

Career Requirements

Degree Level No degree required, but college coursework is often useful
Fields of Study Criminal justice, criminology, animal science
Certification Might need certification as a basic police officer or humane officer; voluntary certification available
Experience Experience working with animals (especially dogs and cats); experience in law enforcement is commonly preferred
Key Skills Strong interpersonal skills, attention to detail, physical fitness, good decision-making skills, proficiency in basic word processing and spreadsheet software
Median Salary (2015)* $35,330 (for all animal control workers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Oregon Humane Society, Michigan Humane Society, O*NET OnLine

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Step 1: Complete Relevant Education

In some cases, a high school diploma is all the education required to land a job as an animal cruelty investigator. However, some employers prefer candidates who've completed college-level coursework in criminal justice or animal science. As a postsecondary criminal justice student, you might complete an internship in law enforcement, in addition to studying topics relevant to animal cruelty investigation. The experience that such an internship could provide is commonly sought by employers.

Success Tips

  • Gain experience. An animal cruelty investigator should want to help animals and recognize when they're in distress. Relevant experience can be gained by volunteering with an animal rescue operation, working for a humane society branch, by working in a veterinary office, or by working on a farm.
  • Get in shape. Animal cruelty investigators must be in good physical condition in order to do their jobs properly. Stamina and strength are both required, and investigators must be required to lift, climb, or even run as part of their responsibilities in the field.

Step 2: Earn Any Required Certification

Some agencies require that animal cruelty investigators be certified basic police officers. This typically requires completing police academy training and meeting requirements for strength and agility. Other qualifications generally include being at least 21 years old, passing drug and criminal background checks, and meeting hearing and vision requirements.

Alternatively, some states, such as Wisconsin, require that animal cruelty investigators be certified humane officers. This usually requires completing training in animal care and training in criminal investigation, in addition to passing an examination.

Step 3: Obtain Voluntary Certification

Some agencies prefer candidates who have completed training and earned voluntary certification through the Law Enforcement Training Institute, which is based out of the University of Missouri but also offered at various locations across the nation. Potential employers might view this voluntary certification as a sign that a candidate is a serious professional. Required and voluntary police academy training can help with entry into other law enforcement careers and opportunities.

Animal cruelty investigators work in the field responding to calls about animal cruelty. They must have completed some coursework in criminology and/or animal science, have experience working with animals, and must earn required and/or voluntary certification.

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