If you’re an animal control worker who’s been served with an Administrative Complaint or citation from the Florida Commission on Ethics, you probably want to know your next steps. In Florida, a complaint filed against an animal control worker can lead to harsh penalties and suspension of your certification. Discipline can result in not only a tarnished standing among your colleagues and friends but also a negative impact on your current and future career.
No matter the severity of your alleged wrongdoing, it’s important that you take the complaint filed against you seriously. At The Umansky Law Firm, our Orlando animal control worker defense attorneys understand how to construct a concrete defense against your allegations. A knowledgeable license defense lawyer can save you and your reputation by potentially closing the investigation before it becomes public record.
An animal control worker is responsible for upholding public safety by regulating animal licensing laws and human care protocols while on patrol. An animal control worker handles animals of all shapes and sizes, from pets to wildlife. They’re in charge of examining mistreated animals, controlling those that are dangerous, and helping any animal that’s abandoned or lost.
An animal control worker is typically employed by the county, city, or federal government. There are many different jobs within the field, including:
Florida Statute 828.27 describes animal control workers as:
“…any person employed or appointed by a county or municipality who is authorized to investigate, on public or private property, civil infractions relating to animal control or cruelty and to issue citations as provided in this section…”
Animal control workers can be responsible for capturing and impounding dangerous animals, investigating cases of animal cruelty, providing expert testimony in court cases, and providing humane care to animals under their supervision.
The state of Florida requires that all Animal Cruelty workers be certified by the Florida Animal Control Association. This requires the completion of a 40-hour minimum training course that includes preparation for animal cruelty investigations, search and seizure, animal handling, courtroom demeanor, and civil citations. Once certified, each trainer must re-up every two years by completing a 4-hour post-certification.
To pursue a career as an animal control worker—in addition to being certified—you must be 18 years of age, have a high school diploma, and receive the required education and training. Most animal control workers have a college degree in an animal-related field and prior experience working as a police officer, veterinary technician, or animal trainer.
Florida Statute 828.27 continues to define the role of an animal control worker, what they can and cannot do, and the guidelines that define whether they have the right to carry tranquilizers and other sedatives:
“…an animal control officer is not authorized to bear arms or make arrests; however, such officer may carry a device to chemically subdue and tranquilize an animal, provided that such officer has successfully completed a minimum of 16 hours of training in marksmanship, equipment handling, safety and animal care, and can demonstrate proficiency in chemical immobilization of animals in accordance with guidelines prescribed in the Chemical Immobilization Operational Guide of the American Humane Association.”
In other words, 16 hours of training is required in order to be certified in Chemical Immobilization. The curriculum must be approved by the State of Florida Board of Veterinary Medicine.
The Florida Animal Control Association is the only required course in the state of Florida. Participants should plan to review the current Florida Animal Control Officer Training Guide in advance to help them prepare for the program. The course is currently $585 for all students. Those who fail the final examination are allowed one opportunity to retake a different exam within 6 months for a fee of $100. A second failing grade would result in the participant having to retake the entire course.
The Florida Animal Control Association states that any certified member who “…does not maintain their standards for certification and continuing education or commit acts that are contrary to FACA’s Code of Ethics should be dealt with by their local appointing authority.”
The FACA Code of Ethics defines unacceptable behavior as:
The Sunshine Amendment and Code of Ethics For Public Officers and Employees states that non-criminal penalties vary, but they can entail a suspension of licensure, reprimand, demotion, and a reduction of salary. Criminal penalties can include a fine of up to $10,000, restitution of any monetary benefits received, and incarceration.
Anyone who wishes to enter a complaint against an animal control worker can download and fill out an online form from the Florida Commission on Ethics.
When a Florida animal control worker is the subject of a complaint, an investigation is opened by the Florida Commission on Ethics. The inquiry involves finding sufficient evidence to decide whether the claim can proceed to the next step. This can include:
As a certified animal control worker, it’s vital to take the complaint filed against you seriously. Hiring a knowledgeable and accomplished animal control worker certification defense attorney would certainly be in your best interest. Many expert lawyers can end the investigation process at its earliest stages, preventing you from any further damage to your business and reputation.
If an investigator finds enough evidence to move the case forward, it will be reviewed by a Probable Cause Panel. They will consider both the gathered evidence and the rules or regulations that have been infringed.
Throughout this process, it’s vital to seek counsel from an experienced administrative law attorney and not attempt to manage the case alone.
The panel review may lead to three possible results:
If the panel finds no probable cause, the case will be dismissed. If a letter of guidance is issued, you will not receive any disciplinary action, but your reputation may be harmed. If a formal Administrative Complaint is issued against you, the process will proceed to the next step.
A formal Administrative Complaint is the most severe outcome that can result from a review, and the case will become public record. Even if the case is eventually dismissed, your reputation is at stake. The complaint will outline the specific laws or regulations that you’re accused of violating as well as the statements and evidence used against you during the investigation. A credible attorney will then help you decide whether to pursue an Informal Hearing or Formal Hearing.
At an Informal Hearing, you don’t intend to debate any of the accusations against you, nor do you plan to disclose any new evidence. You will acknowledge the complaints and face the Florida Commission on Ethics, which will make a final decision on what penalties will be enforced against you.
At a Formal Hearing, on the other hand, you have the option of arguing your case and disputing the allegations against you by presenting new evidence. This hearing is before Florida’s Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) and is chaired by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ will listen to the arguments from both parties and eventually make a final Recommended Order. The Florida Commission on Ethics will finally make a closing decision with regard to the disciplinary actions you will face.
If you wish to do so, you can appeal the decision by filing a petition for judicial review. Keep in mind, it’s always important to consult with a credible attorney before making any decisions.
At The Umansky Law Firm, our professional defense attorneys will fully investigate the facts of your case in order to compile a concrete defense and fight for your rights. Having an expert criminal lawyer on your side who knows the ins and outs of certification defense law should be your top priority.
Our attorneys can help you in a number of ways. Here are a few:
If you’re an animal control worker who has received a complaint in Orlando, contact the expert lawyers at The Umansky Law Firm. We’re a group of skilled attorneys with experience in animal control worker certification defense. We’ll protect you against your allegations and work to potentially dismiss the case completely.
With over 100 years of combined legal experience, our team is here to fight for your rights. We’ll help defend your reputation and avoid both certification suspension and criminal liability. To speak with an administrative lawyer, give us a call or complete an online contact form today.
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