Animal control officers work with the public to provide safety and protection from animals that may be abandoned. Animal cruelty officers on the other hand, investigate specific cases of animal abuse and may bring charges against those who are found to treat animals with neglect or to purposely abuse them.
There are typically two paths to becoming an animal cruelty investigator, and the path you take will usually depend on the state or city in which you want to become employed. Some locations have animal cruelty investigators as part of their total animal control team; others are employed as part of local police departments, and are actually police officers assigned to special duty.
In order to become an animal cruelty officer, all you usually need is a high school diploma and a clean criminal background. However, many police officers and animal control officers seek at least an associate’s degree in criminal justice or psychology. Some animal control officers have a degree in biology or other science field that lends itself to handling animals safely. Veterinary technicians may also become animal cruelty investigators if they want to crossover in their career paths.
How much you earn as an animal cruelty investigator will depend on your specific employer and job title, as well as your years of experience. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median annual salary for animal control officers as $32,460. On the other hand, the median salary for police officers is $55,010, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Your salary will also depend on the number of hours you work. Overtime is relatively common in some jobs and is often paid at a higher rate than normal hourly wages.
Police officer jobs in general are projected to grow by seven percent over the next ten years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This slow growth is somewhat reflective of the budget cuts than many police departments have experienced; this trend may not stabilize for some time. Therefore, an individual who wants to become an animal cruelty investigator may want to work for sometime as a “regular” police officer and wait for an opening in that department.
Jobs are predicted to be more plentiful in more highly-populated areas, but there may also be higher competition for those jobs.
Because this job is a relatively recent invention, your area may not have animal cruelty investigators. If you still want to work in this field, there are often volunteer positions available that provide experience to help you obtain an animal cruelty investigator position when one is created or comes open.
First, you should look at your local veterinarians and animal shelters. These organizations often welcome help and volunteers can gain experience in the techniques of working with abused or neglected animals.
Next, try animal rescues. Dog and cat breed and general rescues are always looking for qualified transporters, foster parents, and others who can help the rescue group do its work of relocating surrendered or abandoned animals to new homes. This is a great way to get hands-on experience working with animals as well as perform a valuable service for the community.
You will also find that this job may be too emotional for you. Having to euthanize badly abused animals is not pleasant work; some people start in the field then have to leave because they simply cannot cope with the damage they see on a daily basis.
An animal cruelty investigator must be tough but compassionate. If you love animals and want to work in a field where protecting and helping them is your top priority, this may be the job field for you.