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Humane Officers

Humane Officer General Information

Humane officers investigate complaints of animal abuse and neglect for local governments. They may be employees of a city, town or village; employees of humane societies that contract with local governments to provide these services; or self-employed contractors.

The common thread is that they must specifically be appointed by a local government as humane officers in Wisconsin. Unless they are appointed, they have no authority investigate these cases. Their job is to gather evidence to see whether neglect or abuse are occurring and put together a case that the district attorney can prosecute. In some cases, if charges are not warranted, they may also work with animal owners to educate them and improve their animal care.

Local government does not have to appoint humane officers; they can rely on the local police or sheriff's department to handle animal cases. Some police officers or deputies who are designated by their departments to handle animal cases take the extra step of being formally appointed as humane officers. Law officers do not need to be appointed as humane officers to handle these cases, but some choose to do so. The specialized training provided for humane officers is helpful to them.

Humane Officers Must:

  • Complete a 40-hour training course within one year of being appointed, and pass the final exam
  • Apply for certification from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection
  • Complete 32 hours of continuing education every two years to maintain their certification  

What is a Certified Humane Officer?
Wisconsin statutes provide for certification of individuals trained to make thorough, painstaking, well-documented investigations to secure convictions within WI and municipal humane statutes. Currently, there are over 160 Certified Humane Officers in the state of Wisconsin. Some are members of law enforcement who have received specialized training to investigate cruelty cases; some are shelter workers, municipal appointees, or just caring individuals. (Clicking on the "WI Stat 703: Humane Officers" link provides a comprehensive description of WI Humane Officers.)

To qualify for Department of Agriculture, Trade, & Consumer Protection Humane Officer certification, each individual must complete a comprehensive, 30+ hour training program, pass a DATCP certification exam, and pay a fee. For details about the Humane Officer program, including Training and Continuing Education, please see: DATCP Humane Officer Website or read the in-depth Humane Officer Training & Certification section of the Wisconsin Administrative Code.

What may a Humane Officer do?

According to WI statute 173, a Wisconsin Humane Officer's duties include:

  • ENFORCEMENT. A humane officer shall enforce [state humane statutes] and ordinances relating to animals enacted by political subdivisions (city, town, village, and county) in which the humane officer has jurisdiction.
  • INVESTIGATION. A humane officer shall investigate alleged violations of statutes and ordinances relating to animals and, in the course of the investigations, may execute inspection warrants.
  • SEEK SUBPOENAS. A humane officer may request the district attorney for the county to obtain subpoenas to compel testimony and obtain documents in aid of investigations.
  • ISSUE CITATIONS. If authorized by the appointing political subdivision, a humane officer shall issue citations for violations of ordinances relating to animals.
  • REQUEST PROSECUTIONS. A humane officer may request law enforcement officers and district attorneys to enforce and prosecute violations of state law and may cooperate in those prosecutions.

What may a Humane Officer NOT do?

Statute 173 states that, unless also a law enforcement officer, a humane officer may NOT in the course of his or her duties do any of the following:

  • Execute a search warrant.
  • Carry firearms.
  • Stop or arrest persons.
  • Stop, search, or detain vehicles, except under an inspection warrant.
  • Enter any place or vehicle by force or without the consent of the owner, except in an emergency occasioned by fire or other circumstance in which that entry is reasonable and is necessary to save an animal from imminent death or a person from imminent death or injury.
  • Remove any animal from the custody of another person by force.
  • Sell or otherwise dispose of any animal that came into the humane officer’s custody in the course of his or her duties.

Training Outline:

  • Introduction to Cruelty and Your State Laws
    • Definitions of Cruelty, Abuse, and Neglect
    • State Specific Cruelty Law Review (what it says, how it can be interpreted and applied)
    • What you can and cant convict on
    • Precedent setting cases for your state
  • First Strike: The Connection between Animal Cruelty & Human Violence
    • Animal cruelty’s connection with other crimes and violence
    • Working with other agencies
    • Cross reporting laws and , if it passes, animal abuser registry law
    • Offering resources to victims
  • Criminal Procedure Issues – How to present cases
    • When and how to obtain a search warrant
    • CSI – recognizing & logging evidence
    • Necropsies: when to get one and what to discuss with the person preforming the necropsy beforehand.
    • Seizure, impound, bonding, owner liability, and disposition of seized animals
  • Preparing the case for your prosecutor and testifying in court
  • Special Concerns: Choice One (see list below)
  • Special Concerns: Choice Two (see list below)
  • Public/Media Relations