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New Academy Offers Training to East Coast ACOs

For East Coast agencies that want their officers to receive excellent training but don’t have the budget to send them to conferences all over the country, a new educational resource will provide a great opportunity for learning without the additional hassle and expense of long-distance travel. Carroll Community College in Westminster, Maryland, is running the first session of the East Coast Animal Control Academy this October; the program and extensive curriculum was developed in partnership with the Maryland Police & Correctional Training Commission, the Professional Animal Workers of Maryland (PAWS), and The HSUS.

The idea for the academy grew out of local shelter director Nicky Ratliff ’s realization that many of the instructors in the college’s new law enforcement associate’s degree program were the same ones she would like to see teaching ACOs the legal and investigative side of field work.

It was an opportunity not to be missed, says Ratliff, executive director of the Humane Society of Carroll County and a longtime proponent of officer training. So many agencies are being hit by budget crunches that training is often the first thing cut—but such moves are shortsighted and even dangerous, says Ratliff. “It is ludicrous, if not actionable, to put someone out there with a uniform and a badge and authority and no required training,” she says, noting that the lack of formal training can be a major driver of high turnover in animal control departments.

With help from the college, representatives from PAWS put together a written curriculum for the course, using the National Animal Control Association’s training guide and their own experiences to shape the 88-hour program. Training will be conducted over 11 days, and will include instruction on everything from bloodsports and equine body scoring to investigative techniques and courtroom preparation. “We wanted to cover as much as possible for groups that aren’t able to give their officers anything else,” says Ratliff.

The first day of the course will be spent on ways of dealing with difficult people, an aspect everyone felt was fundamental to field work. “Animal control officers will never be successful without people skills,” says Ratliff. “There are so many gray areas you’ll find in the field where cases are borderline and you can’t legally do anything to help an animal, so you have to work with people and recognize the difference between ignorance and malice. It’s preventive—you can stop a lot of suffering before it starts.”

The course is open to anyone who wants to attend, and the creators hope people will come from far and wide. Registration is ongoing and the first course is filling rapidly. For more information about the course, contact the Carroll Community College Office of Continuing Education and Training at 410-386-8100 or contact Humane Society University at


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