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 do 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
Humane officers can:
- Investigate suspected violations of humane laws and gather evidence under inspection warrants
- Ask the district attorney to obtain subpoenas to compel testimony and obtain documents
- Ask law enforcement officers and district attorneys to enforce and prosecute violations
- Execute a search warrant (although they may gather evidence when accompanied by law officers who execute search warrants)
- Carry firearms
- Stop or arrest anyone
- Stop, search or detain vehicles except under an inspection warrant