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How to Become an Animal Control Officer in California

Updated on September 30, 2015

If you love animals, and have a caring soul a career as an Animal Control Officer may be for you. Animal Control Officer Jobs are highly competitive because they are generally entry level positions with high pay. According to as of July 26, 2010 Animal Control Officers make an average of $55,000 a year in the state of California.

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Job Requirements

While the job of an Animal Control Officer is an interesting one there are some responsibilities you should be aware of before pursuing a career as an Animal Control Officer. Your responsibility is first and foremost public safety. If you have a decision between protecting the public and protecting an animal the public must be your primary concern. You have to deal with animals of all different temperaments day and night. Handling dangerous animals is a regular occurrence. You must be mentally capable of performing euthanasia on an animal if a situation warrants. Often times without help you will be required to lift heavy animals into a Dog Truck. Working in extreme heat or cold is a common experience.

Minimum Qualifications

Were you surprised with the Minimum Qualifications to become an Animal Control Officer in California?

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Minimum Qualifications

For the most part Animal Control Officer Positions require one year of experience handling animals. To issue citations and make arrests all Animal Control Officers must complete California Penal Code section 832 certification for the arrest component. If the Agency requires use of firearms the Penal Code section 832 firearms component must be completed as well. Most agencies allow six months to one year from appointment to obtain these certificates. These are the minimum qualifications, however Animal Control Jobs are highly competitive. So I would suggest you volunteer at your local shelter, go on ride along with officers, and attend any local training possible.

It would greatly increase your chance of becoming an Animal Control Officer if you obtained your one year of experience working as an Animal Care Worker or Shelter Attendant. With this experience you gain inside knowledge about the Agency, and do not require as much training to get into the field. You may also be privy to when the job openings are going to come up. As an Animal Care Worker or Shelter Attendant you would be responsible for the cleaning of the shelter, intake of animals brought in by the public, transactions as they relate to animals, and euthanasia of sick, injured, feral, or otherwise unwanted animals.


Where to Apply

To find an Animal Control Officer position you should use the internet to look for you local Agency. If you live in a large city there may be both a County and a City Animal Control Presence. The best search criteria would be the area you live in, and Animal Control. Then navigate to the employment opportunities tab. As Animal Control Officer positions are highly competitive, and have a low turnover rate you may have to look for some time.

Once you find an available position review the requirements, and if you qualify apply for the position. Note if the announcement states how many positions are available, and what location you would server. Often times county governments cover a fast area. Don’t expect anything to move quickly. Often times with public agencies it takes quiet some time to go through the entire recruitment process.

Recruitment Process - What to Expect

body. This is to insure that public jobs are given to the most qualified instead of as favors. You will know you have been accepted into the recruitment process because you have received a letter detailing a place and time to take an examination. Prepare for this examination by studying State and local laws, animal behavior, animal diseases, investigative practices, and public relations.

To study State laws in the State of California regarding animals look up Penal Code Section 597 and all subsections. That is where the bulk of animal cruelty laws come from. To study local laws do an internet search for your local governments ordinance codes if county, and municipal codes if city. For animal behavior, diseases, investigative practices, and public relations study you can do an internet search for the respective categories, and check out books from your local library.

So you have taken your exam, now what? You may have to wait several weeks, but if you obtained a passing score, which is usually defined as anything above 70%, you will be invited to the first round of interviews. If you did not pass you will usually receive a letter stating what your score was, and that you will not be invited further into the recruitment process.

The first round of interviews is usually a formal interview with individuals of the personnel department, and an expert in your classification. These individuals ask all candidates the same pre-determined questions, and rate you based off your interview. The score from your written test and your first interview are combined to come with a final score. Only the top few candidates are invited to the next stage. If you do not make it you will be placed on an eligibility list for six months to one year depending on the Agency. An eligibility list is used if the top candidates decline their position or if another position opens up in the time frame.

The final stage before an offer of employment is made consists of the department interview. You will usually meet with your direct supervisor, and his superior. This interview will be much more informal compared to the first interview, but be prepared to present yourself in a professional manner. At the conclusion of the interview you will be notified how long it will take to make a decision. The agency generally waits until all candidates are interviewed before deciding on one. This may take several weeks, and no news is good news. You will be contacted whether you get the job or not.

Conditional Offer of Employment

If you are offered a conditional offer of employment there are still a few hoops to jump though, but as long as you are physically fit, do not abuse drugs, and were honest on your application the job is yours.

Animal Control Officers perform a physically demanding job. So often times a physical examination is required by a physician at the agencies expense. This exam varies greatly by agency, but may involve testing the amount of weight you can lift, your cardio endurance, eyesight, hearing, blood work, and a general exam by a physician. You may be drug tested during this visit or you may be scheduled an appointment at another location to take a urine test.

During these tests a background investigation is conducted. If you did not lie on your application about any criminal history nothing should be new to the department, and this should not be of concern to you.

Unconditional Offer of Employment

Congratulations, you passed all the tests and are now an Animal Control Officer. Expect to work a rewarding career with animals and people. It does not stop here though. As an Animal Control Officer you have a duty to animals and the community you serve. You should be obtaining training as often as you can, and better your ability to perform your job.

Additional Training Resources

California State Humane Academy,, is offered in San Diego and Marin County. Choose a date, and plan to attend. Some agencies require it, and others do not. Contact your supervisor and attempt to convince your agency to pay for the training including expenses. I would recommend this class for all Animal Control Officers.

FEMA Independent Study,, module 10 and 11 are about dealing with animals in disasters. This is a free online self paced certificate program that will greatly benefit your community. This website also contains great courses for leadership, and other desirable attributes. Browse the course list and see what interests you.

Humane Society University,, offers many online and in person courses as they relate to Animal Control. Some of the courses are free, others charge a fee. All courses offered here are an invaluable resource to any Animal Control Professional.


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