How Animal Detectives Work

Becoming an Animal Detective

Officer Willie Cirone of the Humane Society of the United States works to save an abandoned dog in New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina. Animal detectives investigate crimes like neglect or abuse.
Omar Torres/AFP/Getty Images

One of the most recognized examples of people working to solve animal-related crimes is in New York City, where 14 uniformed and plain-clothed Humane Law Enforcement (HLE) agents operate. These agents were made famous on Animal Planet's "Animal Precinct," and maybe their work has inspired others to join their ranks.

There isn't one defined path to becoming an animal detective. Some people study criminal justice or animal sciences in college, while others capitalize on their prior law enforcement skills to make a career change. Any experience in law enforcement, in a veterinary clinic or at an animal rescue shelter puts you at an advantage for a career in animal protection.


Becoming an animal detective or law enforcement officer usually requires a degree or related experience, in addition to training, background checks, and certification (such as National Animal Control Association certification). For example, the state of California requires U.S. citizenship, fingerprints and training in animal care and the state's humane laws, as well as training by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training. Some officers in California also complete training to make arrests [source: State Humane Association of California].

Every state has its own criteria and courses for those wanting to become animal detectives. Individual states offer programs specific to their laws and focus on public health and safety, law enforcement skills, intervention skills, and written and verbal communication. In Wisconsin, humane officer training courses cover topics like the role of animal investigator, search and seizure rules, evaluation of cruelty, crime scene procedure and collection of evidence, interview and interrogation, crisis intervention, civil liability and Wisconsin law [source: Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection]. Additionally, formal animal cruelty investigations training, available in locations around the country, are almost always required for the job.

As with any training, there are associated costs. These costs vary by state and typically include course tuition, and testing and certification fees.

For more information about current legislation and the work being done to prevent animal cruelty, visit the related resources below.

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More Great Links


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