How to Become an Animal Cruelty Investigator

Research the requirements to become an animal cruelty investigator. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in animal cruelty investigation.

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Do I Want to Be an Animal Cruelty Investigator?

Animal cruelty investigators research and follow up on reports or concerns about possible abuse or neglect of animals. Many animal cruelty investigators and similarly-titled individuals work in conjunction with or for police departments, giving them the power to arrest perpetrators of cruelty.

Animal cruelty investigators will spend much of their working hours in the field, responding to calls and complaints about animal cruelty. Most work on a full-time basis, although some night and weekend shifts may be required. Job security is offered through positions with a police force.

Job Requirements

Animal cruelty investigators must have good interpersonal skills and be compassionate, open-minded, fair, and physically fit. They should have experience working with animals, as well as an understanding of animal welfare laws. Some experience in law enforcement is commonly recommended. The table below outlines core requirements for becoming an animal cruelty investigator:

Common Requirements
Degree Level No degree required, but college coursework is often useful*
Fields of Study Criminal justice, criminology, animal science**
Certification Might need certification as a basic police officer or humane officer*; voluntary certification is also available**
Experience Experience working with animals (especially dogs and cats); experience in law enforcement is commonly preferred**
Key Skills Strong interpersonal skills, attention to detail, physical fitness, good decision-making skills*
Computer Skills Proficiency in basic word processing and spreadsheet software*
Additional Requirements Valid driver's license, usually required to pass a background check and drug test*

Sources: *Oregon Humane Society, **Michigan Humane Society

Step 1: Complete Relevant Education

In some cases, a high school diploma is all the education required to land a job as an animal cruelty investigator. However, some employers prefer candidates who've completed college-level coursework in criminal justice or animal science. As a postsecondary criminal justice student, you might complete an internship in law enforcement, in addition to studying topics relevant to animal cruelty investigation. The experience that such an internship could provide is commonly sought by employers.

Success Tips:

  • Gain experience working with animals. An animal cruelty investigator should want to help animals and recognize when they're in distress. Relevant experience can be gained by working or volunteering with an animal rescue operation or humane society branch or by working in a veterinary office or on a farm.
  • Get in good physical condition. Stamina and strength are both required to work as an animal cruelty investigator. Investigators may be required to lift, climb, or even run as part of their responsibilities in the field.

Step 2: Earn Any Required Certification

Some agencies require that animal cruelty investigators be certified as basic police officers or peace officers. This typically requires completing police academy training and meeting requirements for strength and agility. Other qualifications generally include being at least 21 years old, passing drug and criminal background checks, and meeting hearing and vision requirements.

Alternatively, some states, such as Wisconsin, require that animal cruelty investigators be certified as humane officers. This usually requires completing training in animal care and criminal investigation, in addition to passing an examination.

Step 3: Obtain Voluntary Certification

Some agencies prefer candidates who have completed training and earned voluntary certification through the Law Enforcement Training Institute, which is based out of the University of Missouri but also offered at various locations across the nation. Potential employers might view this voluntary certification as a sign that a candidate is a serious professional.

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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must live within close proximity to school locations
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