An animal control officer protects and rescues domesticated animals. He may work for a government-funded agency or a non-profit group dedicated to animal protection. Much of his work is normally performed alone, although he may enlist the aid of a co-worker if he is required to investigate an escalating situation or one that involves multiple animals.
If animal abuse is reported, an animal control official is normally dispatched to the location of the alleged crime to inspect the scene. He typically investigates the physical condition of the animals and interviews the pet owners. The animals are removed from the location if the officer finds evidence of neglect, inhumane treatment, malnutrition, or disease.
Animals that become separated from their owners are frequently rescued by an animal control officer. If they are house pets such as dogs or cats, he generally takes them to his agency to shelter them while attempts are made to reunite them with their owners. Unclaimed pets are normally put up for adoption if they are not claimed in a prescribed length of time.
In some cases, an officer may be alerted to a situation where many neglected animals are found in one location. The pets are commonly suffering from various diseases, living in squalor, and underfed. Pet owners in these circumstances are normally prosecuted, fined, and sometimes jailed. The ill-treated animals are customarily nursed back to health and good homes are often found for them.
To promote the nurturing and protection of animals in his community, an animal control officer frequently speaks to groups of children at schools about the care and feeding of pets. Cats and dogs often accompany the officer to these presentations to let the children pet them as they learn about animal care and maintenance. The officer may also make presentations to adult groups to educate them on the benefits of pet population control.
Having compassion and appreciation for animals is a general requirement for success in this job. Patience is considered a valuable asset to effectively deal with pets and frequently sensitive and emotional pet owners. Since animals sometimes have to be forcibly restrained, being physically fit is a general requirement.
A high school diploma or equivalent is generally required to apply for this position. On-the-job training is frequently offered for animal control jobs. A background in animal care or law enforcement is strongly preferred. Knowledge of common animal maladies and treatments is considered helpful to applicants for this job as well.