Animal Cruelty Investigator Career, Salary and Training Info

Harm to animals or neglect that causes suffering is an important focus for humane societies and law enforcement agencies. Animal cruelty investigators follow up on reports of animal abuse, remove animals from dangerous situations, and collect evidence for potential prosecution of the owners in court.

Some states view cruelty investigators as part of the division of animal control though an increasing number of states designate animal cruelty investigations as a separate area of law enforcement.

Animal Cruelty Investigator Salary 2019

The average salary for Animal Cruelty Investigators is $33,800 per year 1. Higher salaries are common for those who investigate animal cruelty as a law enforcement officer 2.

Salaries vary depending on experience, responsibilities of the position, and cost of living in your area.

Animal Cruelty Investigator Requirements

A valid driver’s license and good driving record is required with your application. College level courses in psychology and sociology will help as well as knowledge of the abuse laws of your state and familiarity with law enforcement procedures.

Volunteering at a local animal shelter will help you learn the basics of dealing with frightened or injured animals. You need to be able to communicate orally and in writing and be able to work as part of a team with other investigators and law enforcement personnel.

This is a good career for those who love animals, but be warned: you will be exposed to harsh realities associated with animal cruelty. It takes emotional fortitude to accept that not all animals can be saved and to remain professional when viewing extreme suffering. Dealing with people who do not understand the damage they cause or who do not take responsibility for it requires tact and patience.

Education and Training

Some states now require completion of basic law enforcement training and certification as a peace officer while others require you to be in a field related to law enforcement, military, or security with one or more years of experience in that field.

Many colleges are now adding courses that deal with animal abuse and abuse investigations to train people for this growing career. This is a relatively new career and many current animal abuse investigators were previously employed in law enforcement or worked with humane societies.

You will also be trained in methods of dealing with people, interviewing witnesses, maintaining chain of custody of evidence, documentation, and photography of problems or wounds.

Animal Cruelty Investigator Career Opportunities

This is a relatively new and rapidly growing career. Many animal cruelty investigators have background and experience in law enforcement while others move into the job through experience working with animals in humane society shelters or as veterinarian assistants.

There are opportunities for specialization in investigations of large animals, illegally imported species, or domestic pets. The work can be emotionally draining but each day brings a different challenge and the satisfaction of making a positive difference in the lives of animals and in your community.

With experience, you may have the opportunity to move into leadership of a cruelty task force or participate in large scale investigations. Supervisory positions are also available as coordinators and instructors.

Take a look at other great Criminal Justice Careers.

Footnotes & Sources

1. Animal Cruelty Investigator – salary is estimated. There just ins’t enough significant data for average salary calculation. Currently, most police departments handle animal abuse calls.

2. Bureau of Labor Statistics: National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates​

Article written by Radek Gadek

Radek holds a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University. He is currently doing consulting work and runs this blog to provide relevant information on criminal justice degrees, colleges and related careers.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jason Biers

    I don’t know if you will be able to help me or not but I was wondering if you have any type of open positions in animal protection law. Or if you know of organizations or companies that would have such career opportunities..looking for someone with a paralegal background and criminal justice degree. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.


    • Radek M. Gadek


      You should take a look at organizations like ASPCA. They are always in need of educated law enforcement and legal support staff.

      • Sherry Anthony

        I was wondering how I could speed up the process of being a part of the team of animal cruelty investigations. I just graduated in Nov. of 2011 with an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice and for this reason only. I am very ready to work immediately. I would even intern if possible. I did my own intern at out local animal shelter which is very small. I was not in the shelter much. My job was out in the field with animal law enforcement police. I loved every day that we saved or helped an animal. I live in a small town in Pa. and ready to move in the warm atmosphere and start my new life as hopefully Humane Law Enforcement. I am looking for work now and in a warm climate, Florida and so on. I hope to hear something positive maybe from your site.

        • Sherry Anthony

          I was wondering if I could get a reply on my question. I am still so ready to move forward and looking for a chance to prove my qualities of animal law enforcement and or investigations of any kind of animal neglect or cruelty. Please respond if possible. I have extra certifications with my Criminal Justice Degree if needed.
          Thank you so much..

          Sherry Anthony

          • Radek Gadek

            Sherry, I left your request on the comment thread in hopes someone more qualified on this topic can help. Nevertheless, I think you should reach out to the organizations yourself.

        • Zachary Davis

          There is a great need for help in combating animal welfare against cruelty, puppy mills and dog fighting in the state of Hawaii, especially on the Big Island of Hawaii. In the state, each island is its own county. Salaries differ from county to county. I, myself, have adopted abused animals from the Hawaii County Humane Society in Kona (the west coast of the island). One is now a certified medical assist service dog. I work hard to rehabilitate abused animals so they have a better chance of adoption into loving, approved homes. The climate is great for those seeking warm climates. Check it out. It may be a perfect match for you. The best of luck to you. Zachary

  • Yasmin

    Do you have any idea what college classes i would need to take in order to work as an Animal Cruelty Investigator?

    • wOOoooO

      What I’m doing is just taking a lot of law classes, psychology and sociology will help a lot too. If you get a degree in criminal justice, they’ll accept that too.

    • Courtney

      The University of Missouri has an amazing program for a certificate as a National Humane Investigator. It is three levels and they travel to all major cities. You should definitely look into it. They are amazing!!!!!!

  • Larry Maxwell

    I am the Chief Animal Cruelty Investigator for The Humane Society of Louisiana- Psychology classes and sociology classes are ok-but if you can find a local Humane Society they will usually train you by going with one of their officers into the field and let you see what you are getting into firsthand. be warned-if you are investigating dog fighting cases drugs and firearms will probably be involved so get police backup!!!!! Most sheriffs Depts and local police are more than happy to help

    • Radek M. Gadek


      Thanks for your input. I really appreciate when someone who has direct “know how” can contribute to the community.

    • Kelly

      Hello, I’m currently pursuing an associate degree in Criminal Justice. I have been and currently am employed (3.5 years) at a vet clinic as a vet tech, absolutely LOVE animals which is why I’ve decided to pursue my degree in hopes of getting work as a animal cruelty investigator in the future. My question is, how difficult is it to find work as a cruelty investigator? Do you know if there are local organizations (live in Austin, TX) that are actually hiring for this? I know Houston SPCA has investigators but not sure on other cities in Texas. Thanks for any help you can email my way! :)

      • jubilee

        Awesome …I’m 18 and have loved animal for a long time…I watch animal cops Houston and animal cops Miami … I really want to be a animal cop…or an animal vet. Any source of info about how to help animals helps… thanx

    • Dan Brown

      Hey Larry thanks for the info. I have been an animal control officer for about a year and I was starting to prosecute a couple fighters in my city when my program was shut down. If you know of any organizations hiring cruelty investigators or dog fight investigations i would love to know. It’s my passion.

  • Amanda

    ive wanted to be a humane Investigator since i was a little girl. but what is the difference between. humane Law Enforcement, animal Cop, and Humane investigator?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Most likely it should mean the same thing.

    • Whether you are an animal control officer or humane officer, may depend on what kind of agency you work for. Generally, the local animal shelter run by the local government is where an animal control officer would be, and generally this is a entry level position at the shelter, though you would still need a pretty extensive background in animal handling. On the other hand, a Humane Officer works for a Humane Society, has additional training beyond an ACO, and is state certified. Often this person also has additional law enforcement powers like powers of arrest, and may carry a sidearm, that an ACO does not have. So, basically, the difference between the two is who you are employed by, your level of training and your certification. It also may vary from state to state since most ACO and Humane Officer jobs are all regulated by the individual state. Good luck. It is a very fascinating field!

      • Grey


        I’m currently obtaining an Associate in Applied Science degree in Criminal Justice/Public Police Services 294. My question is: Do you believe an associate degree enough to apply as a Humane Officer or would it be better for a position as an Animal Control Officer?

        I’m also volunteering at the animal hospital down the street from my home and have taken psychology classes already. I’m scheduled to take sociology as well.

  • Sarah

    I really need to know the first step into becoming an animal cruelty investigator. What courses should I take, and what is a good organization to learn the ropes from?

  • Taylor

    Hey, i want to have a career in something with abused animals! But i don’t know what classes to take in college and what degree do you need to get?! I’m in psychology and sociology in high school, and next year taking animal science. I just don’t know what to take after that. If you could tell me i would appreciate it! Thanks :)

  • WPGirl49

    I have a bachelors degree in psychology and a bachelor’s degree in sociology. Do you think I could get a job/position as an animal cruelty officer?


    • Radek M. Gadek

      Yes, I think you could.

  • Kacey

    I am only a teenager, but I was wondering how old you have to be to work as a humane investigator. I was also wondering what the specific training would be for the job. I know I am to young right now but if you could give me some information on what I need to do, I would really appreciate it. This way I can study in high school and in college. Thank you very much.

  • Chris


    I am looking for a career in law enforcement as an animal cruelty investigator or as a member on an anti-animal fighting task force. I have a degree in veterinary technology and am currently enrolled in criminal justice:police science. Anyone know of any opportunities available? I am located in Rochester, NY but am willing to relocate for the right position. Thank you in advance!


    • Chris


      • angela

        Go look on ASPCA web site there are many posting for jobs available. NY is the ASPCA’s main headquarters.

  • Van

    I am interested in becoming a animal cruelty investigator and I am now attending college for criminal justice. What else do I need to do to become an animal cruelty investigator? By me having points on my license will that disqualify me from my dream job?

  • Katie

    I am interested in going into the Animal Cruelty field, and i was wondering if I go to college for Criminal Justice will I be qualified? If so what degree will i need?

  • ciara

    hi …
    im 13 and i really want to become an animal cruelty investigator but im not sure were to start!!obviously im going to have to wait till im at least in college but what i really want to know is were do i start because everything i read is saying i need a degree in psychology and a degree in sociology, and how law enforcement backgrounds will help with me getting into this job ( is this necessary) also in humane societies !?!?!? also what does this really mean “establishing good customer relations and maintaining administration procedures in use.” i have googled it so many times and cant find an answer, what i am basically saying is how to get in to this job u need a background in certain other jobs but when i google them u also need a back ground in certain other jobs …it goes in a big circle and is kinda confusing also one last thing what are the top colleges that have courses in psychology and sociology and is there anything else i need to noe ,,,,,…..,,,,, im not expecting exact answers but it would really help me !!! PLEASE AND THANK YOU !!!

    –ciara weller,13

    • TJ

      i am goin through the same thing as you lol although i am almost 15 and a freshmen in highschool im looking into the job as an animal cruelty investigator and some things im taking to study are ag. sciences and FFA (future farmers association) these may help you….and to answer the degrees question yes it is kind of necessary because you will need to understand why the people may have did this to an animal and you can help them too….and you may want to volunteer at a local animal shelter to get you used to the surrounding of a frightened or injured animal…it will help a lot trust me lol but the main thing is if this is what you want to do DONT GIVE UP :D well i hope my words helped ;)

    • kacey

      I have also been having that problem. I have decided to email some humane investigators from around the country and it has really helped. They told me that there is no particular background to have. the did say that a minimum they look for previous training and work experience in cruelty investigations or animal control. They said that they will accept previous training and work experience in law enforcement and/or criminal justice only if combined with previous animal related work experience. Also, candidates must have ability to solve practical problems and deal with a variety of concrete variables in situations where limited protocol exists. The strongest candidates also have strong mathematical ability. The position requires working flexible hours including weekends and nights, and a valid Texas driver’s license is required.

      I hope that this helps you in your pursuit to your dream career.

  • jessica

    i am looking into opportunities to become an animal cruelty investigator. im in high school now and making my goals on order to become one. i have been looking online to see what college courses i need to take, but i dont know what college is best to go. what college is thee best to cope with my future training?

  • alexas young

    hey, i just started my first year of college and im starting out with getting my associates degree in science then transferring to a university to finish out my schooling i need advice on what school and what would be the best route into getting into something like animal cruelty or law enforcement

  • Mandy

    I am very interested in becoming an Animal Control Officer. I want to rescue animals that have been abused or abandoned. I have a great love for animals and I always have since I was a little girl. I want to work with animals, save their lives, and help them in anyway I can without becoming a vet. I have an Associate of Arts Degree and I have taken psychology classes in college as well. I am willing do continue my schooling, but I would like to know exactly what classes I need to take and/or which degree I need to obtain in order to work in this field. If you could please help me through the necessary steps that I need to take in order to get there I would really appreciate it. Thank you and I hope to hear back soon!

  • Heather

    I’m 16 and I’m researching potential careers I might want to have one day for my independent living class and I would like to know approximately how many years of college is required for this job. I see the article says what courses you should take, but I’d like to know how many years that would be to complete those. I’d also like to know what fringe benefits come with being an animal cruelty investigator and usual hours of work. Thank you for your help!

  • Courtney

    I’m enrolled in college for becoming a Vet tech, which means I will be taking Psychology and sociology classes. Could I possibly get a job with this degree or would I need to have criminal justice?


  • Fuzzy Hearts Rescue

    I am a certified Animal Cruelty Investigator and also the Director of a small Animal Rescue in the State of Arkansas. Though I am an investigator I am not a Law enforcement officer, I do work with Humane Societies, shelters or if needed with ACO and law enforcement. Initial certification was for simple fact that I had been asked to take in animals that were from Puppy mill busts or had been abused. Having that class helped me to understand what I was dealing with as a case is always behind rescuing a puppy mill or abused animal. It simply progressed from there. I would not trade it for anything in the world. Its not for the weak of heart nor the weak stomach but it is a career in which many furry lives will be placed in your hands.

    • Ashley

      Thank God for people like you, and bless your heart! I can only dream to do what you do one day. If you have any additional advice or tips I would love to hear them! I graduate in December (pre-vet) and my lifelong goal is to help save animals and make a difference in their lives.

  • Lana

    What kind of hours are expected as an animal cruelty investigator? I would like to pursue this type of career but I am a single mother. It is sometimes hard to find childcare for Sundays and Saturdays. Do the schedules of work depend on the office you work?

  • TJ

    I’m currently a freshmen in high school and I would love to become an animal cruelty investigator…it has been my dream to work with animals since I was a very small child :) if anyone could let me know more about what classes I should take in highschool in order to pursue this career, I would really appreciate it :D


  • jaclyn gobrecht

    I am 33 years old. When i graduated from high school, i had no idea what i wanted to do for a career. Yet, i have always been an animal lover and watched animal planet. I have watched animal cop shows. As result, i have been wanting to know what kind of classes i would need for that. I feel that these animals need a voice. They don’t have a choice to who they go home with. I help animal shelter out when i have the time from my full time job. I do adaption sites and many other things. But, i would like to make animal cruelty investigator a career. Any inf would help. thanks

  • Jamie

    What are some good colleges to go to if your interested in working at the Houston ASPCA as a person who helps bring in the animals, and go to court about getting justice for the animals? What are good classes to take for this kind of job?

  • Michelle Ford


    I would like to pursue a career in Humane law enforcement. At the moment I’m in the military I also have a degree in Animal Care and A.A., do you think that I’ll be able to find a job in humane law enforcement if I worked in law enforcement in the military? Also what additional training would I need to reach my goal?

  • Brooke Collins


    My name is Brooke and I am 21 years old, I have wanted to be an animal cop/investigator since I was young. I am wanting to know what is the least amount of school I can do in order to be able to work in this field. The only reason is, I don’t have parents helping me and I will have to keep my full time job in order to still be able to survive. I have an undying love for animals and would do anything it takes to be there for them and take them out of hostel situations. If a professional has any ideas or information it would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank You

  • carmen

    I’m a junior in high school and currently taking classes in college for the STEM field. The only reason I’m taking them though is because i got into a free program. What i really want to do is become and Animal Cruelty Investigator, preferably in Huston, TX. This has been my dream since i was nine years old. I was wondering though, what is the difference between an animal cruelty investigator, and one who investigates animal cruelty as a law enforcement officer? Also, are the classes i am taking right now going to help me with this field at all? I am taking physics and trigonometry. and next year i will be taking classes like engineering. After high school i also want to become a Military Police for five years to gain police experience. Hopefully in the K-9 unit :)

  • Mckenzie Lawson

    Hello, My name is Mckenzie. I’m Seventeen years old. I graduated high school early and I recently moved here to Missouri.. I want to enroll into classes I’m just not sure what are the BEST classes and degrees? I’m currently volunteering at a No Kill Animal Sanctuary for rescued animals. I also protest with a group here in St. Louis to prevent animal abuse and animal testing.. I have done tons of research on animal abuse and all the different kinds of it! My senior project was on it as well. I want to stop ALL ANIMAL ABUSE! Please help me out and give me all the tips I need to get further in my career :) Thank you.

    P.S I love that everyone is so involved on this page in wanting to make a difference :) Keep going!!!

  • Laura

    I was wondering what type of job I could apply for without a degree. I am in the process of getting my criminal justice degree but want to at least have a job started. I have worked with the Houston sheriffs department as a jailer for 4 years but I’ve always wanted to work with animals. Thank you for your time.

  • Greter morejon

    Hi I have a bachelor degree in criminal justice from FIU I would like to know how I can become an animal investigator and what do I need to do to get more info thank you.

  • alexis

    I have been looking all over google and talking to some people but I can’t find the job I’m looking for. I Have worked with and around animals my entire life and I want to be apart of the prevention of cruelty to animals. I was wanting to get into a more expanded version of the things I have been looking at. I was wanting to find a job where it’s more then just one place. I would like to be able to investigate and shut down dog fighting rings and the more intense type of animal cruelty I was wondering if this makes any sense. And if anyone can help me out in finding a career that is right for me?

  • Paul

    Question for anyone who may know. I want to become a humane investigator and am taking courses is criminal justice. I have a bad driving record, speeding tickets, and a DUI. Will I be able to stay with this career?

  • Kayla

    I am currently a senior and will be graduating in may with a degree in animal science. I was wondering if this would be accepted as a good background in an animal cruelty officer career. I would really like to pursue this path so any advice is welcome!


  • Kym McRee

    I’M INTERESTED IN TAKING an online course for animal cruelty for the SPCA. could you please tell me how to get started and how much it would cost and which college could help me thank you for ur time Kym McRee

  • Michelle M.

    I am a former corrections officer at the state prison and I’m currently working on my Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice; I’m extremely interested in becoming an animal cruelty investigator. I was wondering what my chances are on acquiring this position and is there anything else I should do? Thank you for your time.

  • Amanda Low

    I’ve completed two levels of Animal Cruelty Investigator through National Animal Cruelty investigator Law Enforcement training institute from university of Missouri Extension. I have one more Level to take, but i would like to start looking for a job in this field. I live in canandaigua NY i was just wondering if you could tell me if there are any places hiring either in Canandaigua NY or Rochester NY?

  • Robert

    Is there a such thing as an independent (self employed) animal investigator and if so, how do you get paid? Not interested in working for an organization. Thank you in advance for responding.