Animal welfare officers are passionate about the humane treatment of animals and the laws that protect them. To address reports of animal abuse and neglect, several U.S. law enforcement agencies have officers specifically trained to deal with animal species and their owners. Animal control officers may have their own dedicated unit or may work in the animal control unit of a police department. According to the National Animal Control Association, or NACA, animal welfare officers promote public safety and health, enforce the law and protect pets through intervention and education.
Learn more about the animal welfare services in your area. Because the requirements to become an animal welfare officer vary by state, visit a local humane society or police department to learn more how animal welfare programs function in your state. For example, you may need to be a sworn police officer to become an animal welfare officer. On the other hand, you may simply need experience working for an animal welfare program or in an animal shelter, according to the Federated Humane Societies of Pennsylvania.
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Get a degree. According to the NACA, to become an entry-level animal welfare officer a minimum of a high school degree is required. Most police departments, however, prefer candidates to have an associate's or bachelor's degree in biology, zoology, criminal justice, psychology or veterinary medicine. If possible, take classes on how to investigate criminal cases and how to capture large animals safely.
Learn first-aid and animal CPR. In addition to knowing how to save a human's life, an animal welfare officer needs to know how to save an animal's life.
Gain experience. Your love of animals and the desire to keep them safe is not enough to find work as an animal welfare officer. To get a job with a police department, you may need experience working with animals or in law enforcement. One good way to gain hands-on experience, even if the position is voluntary, is by working for an animal rescue agency, kennel, veterinary office or as a park ranger. Such experience will help you learn applicable animal rights laws, problem solving, communication and how to remain remain calm during stressful incidents.
Apply for a vacant position as an animal welfare officer at a police department.