Do You Want to Be An Animal Cop?

In Pennsylvania humane societies and SPCAs have the authority to employ Humane Society Police Officers who are trained and court appointed to enforce one section of the PA Crimes Code: Section 5511, which deals with cruelty to animals.

Act 205 of 2004 sets out the training and other requirements to be a Humane Society Police Officer in Pennsylvania. As the person who organizes the mandatory training programs for PA Humane Officers I receive calls every week from people who want to find out how to become an animal cop. They have seen the shows on Animal Planet and they think that this is the career for them.

These are the cautions that I give them. You cannot be a free lance Humane Officer, working for yourself and enforcing the laws wherever you see a problem. You must work for a humane society or other similar animal welfare organization before you can become a humane officer. Positions in the field are limited. Some humane officers are volunteers, others are part time and few are paid well enough to justify a change from another career. Humane Officers cannot enforce their own personal standards of animal care, but must enforce the law as it is written. That means leaving behind the dog tied to a doghouse, as long as the doghouse is sound and sturdy, or the cat that has kittens every time it comes in heat. The job requires people skills, map reading skills as well as knowledge of animals.

The training is not restricted to people who are already employed by a humane organization, but it is costly both in time and money and few who take the training on their own ever find employment as a Humane Officer. The program is offered once a year in the spring. It is in 2 parts. Each part is 4 days long and has its own test. Tuition for both parts costs $925. Most organizations seeking a Humane Officer hire someone first and then have them trained at the organizationís expense. With that in mind, the best route to becoming a Humane Officer is to develop a relationship with your local humane society. Ask if they will be hiring a Humane Officer, let them get to know you as a volunteer or an employee in another position and take it from there. Information about training programs will be posted on this site. You can also find contact information for humane societies and copies of Section 5511 of the Crimes Code as well as Act 205 of 2004.

Anne Irwin
Bucks County SPCA
Federated Humane Societies of PA