How To Become an Animal Cruelty Investigator

Updated June 24, 2022

Animal cruelty investigators are law enforcement officers for pets and other animals. If you are an animal rights activist or are very passionate about caring for animals, this could be a rewarding career for you. Animal cruelty investigators rescue animals from abuse, neglect and hoarding situations. In this article, we explain what an animal cruelty investigator is, what they do, the skills you need to develop to pursue this career and the steps to take to become one.

What is an animal cruelty investigator?

An animal cruelty investigator is a type of law enforcement officer who investigates reports on animal abuse and neglect and seeks justice for the animals. They enforce animal protection laws and may help to remove animals from dangerous situations.

Read more: 18 Popular Job That Involve Working With Animals

What does an animal cruelty investigator do?

An animal cruelty investigator's primary job duty is to enforce animal protection laws. To do this, they may perform the following duties:

  • Investigate cases of animal abuse and neglect

  • Respond to reports of abuse

  • Examine animals for signs of abuse

  • Conduct interviews with pet owners, witnesses and neighbors for animal cruelty reports

  • Document animal cruelty reports and their findings

  • Arrest those suspected of animal cruelty

  • Rescue animals in dangerous situations

  • Research animal protection laws in specific areas

Important skills for animal cruelty investigators

There are a number of skills that you may want to consider developing further in order to succeed in this role, including:

  • First aid: The animals that an animal cruelty investigator rescues may require medical care and assistance. By developing first aid skills, the animal cruelty investigator may be able to provide life-saving assistance to animals that are injured.

  • Communication: Animal cruelty investigators need to have strong written and verbal communication skills to convey accurate information to colleagues and veterinary professionals. They also need strong interviewing skills, since they may need to periodically interview witnesses to better understand a situation.

  • Stamina: Investigators may need to walk long distances, climb, crawl or stretch to reach animals who need help. They need physical stamina to be able to be active for extended periods of time without tiring.

  • Critical thinking: Animal cruelty investigators need strong critical thinking skills in order to determine how to resolve problems and provide the best help for the animals.

  • Equipment use: Animal cruelty investigators may need knowledge of using animal restraints, kennels and animal capture devices. They also need to know how to use medical tools like syringes in order to provide medical care to animals as needed.

Work environments for an animal cruelty investigators

Animal cruelty investigators typically work full-time hours, although they may have flexible schedules so that they can respond to emergency animal abuse reports. While much of their time is spent in the field and traveling to locations where abuse is reported, animal cruelty investigators typically also have an office they work from, where they file reports and research cruelty claims. An animal cruelty investigator can work for animal justice organizations, non-profits, humane societies or animal control centers.

Steps to become an animal cruelty investigator

Here are the basic steps you need to take to become an animal cruelty investigator:

1. Research requirements in your state

Requirements for this job can vary by state, so begin by researching the credentials your state requires for animal cruelty investigators. You may be able to graduate high school and work in a shelter or for animal control organizations until eventually they promote you to an investigator. Some states may require police training because animal cruelty investigator is a law enforcement career.

Related: 20 Careers in Law Enforcement

2. Meet educational requirements

If the state in which you work requires a law enforcement degree, you cannot pursue police academy training until you are 21. In the time between graduating high school and applying to police academy, you can volunteer at shelters and learn more about animal care.

You could also consider pursuing an associate degree in zoology or veterinary science. This is a good way to learn animal handling skills and other knowledge that would help you within an animal cruelty investigator role. An associate degree can also help you stand out from other candidates when applying for jobs.

3. Gain experience

Look for opportunities to gain direct, hands-on experience working with animals. Depending on the requirements of your state, you may be able to obtain the necessary experience through an entry-level animal care position and eventually advance to achieve the role of animal cruelty investigator. Networking with animal rights organizations, animal trainers and veterinarians can help you learn about opportunities as they become available.

Read more: The Benefits of Networking: 14 Reasons To Start Your Network

4. Become certified

There are a few certifications to consider when becoming an animal cruelty investigator. The first certification is that of being a law enforcement officer. This is a certification you can get through completing police training. If you want to work with the police or animal control this certification is typically necessary. Some states require aspiring animal cruelty investigators to obtain a license as a humane officer. You can earn this certification by studying animal science and criminal investigation.

You may also want to consider pursuing a certification from the National Animal Care and Control Association (NACA). An animal control officer certification from NACA includes just over 20 hours of instruction and then requires candidates to pass a formal exam.

5. Apply for career positions

After earning the required licenses and certifications, you have the qualifications to begin applying for positions as an animal cruelty investigator. Having at least one of the relevant certifications and an associate degree in an animal-related field can help you set yourself apart from other candidates who are applying for openings.

Read more: 9 Tips on How To Get Promoted at Work

What is the salary of an animal cruelty investigator

There is no salary data available for the role of animal cruelty investigator. However, the national average salary for an animal control officer, a similar role, is $15.81 per hour. However, salaries can vary significantly based on experience, geographic location and education levels.

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