How to Determine Field Staffing Levels

Determining the optimum or desirable number of Animal Control Officers has remained an elusive goal for the profession. Several professional groups have tried to develop a model for justifying the desired level of officers. In some cases, this model appeals to budget officials and executives because of the apparent scientific approach to this issue.

However, results have been mixed. In some cities, the model has done nothing more than measure the volume of work and provides a basis for deploying personnel.

The service spectrum in each Animal Control department varies according to the management style and philosophy of the director, polices of government and community expectations. Where cities or agencies only count the calls for service within a community to determine optimum staffing, officer safety, citizen safety and major types of service delivery are not factored into overall staffing needs. In Animal Control work, enforcement responsibilities, population density and diversity, along with coverage area need also be a consideration for future planning.

Staffing which is determined solely on the ability "to respond quickly to a call” does not address a basic Animal Control responsibility - protection of people and animals. Policies, community expectations, and in some instances, ordinances affect staffing needs. In cases where officers can give warnings or educate violators to prevent future occurrences, the officer has spared an animal the distress of impoundment or reduced the possibility of further violations. Attendance in court by officers also affects their availability to respond to calls for service.

Although there is no universally accepted scientific methodology for determining the number of Animal Control Officers needed in a given jurisdiction, there are three models that are variously employed in Animal Control in determining an appropriate number of personnel.

  • Some jurisdictions have attempted to evaluate the estimated growth in residential and business activity to predict the need for additional personnel.
  • The use of comparative data from the NACA Data Survey factoring in population, square miles served, and whenever possible, enforcement responsibilities.
  • The "calls for service” model is used primarily as a workload indicator because the data represents a recognizable and readily measurable demand for Animal Control service. Comparing the number of calls for service from one jurisdiction to another, however, can be very tenuous, because of the variety of calls and the response to Animal Control efforts to encourage citizens to call on any perceived problem.

Determining the number of officers requires an assessment of citizen calls, officer-initiated calls, citations, written warnings, assisting outside agencies, the need for safety and security, a flexible beat structure, time spent on investigations, preventive patrol time and the specific types of service that the public wants and expects.

The basic elements of the "calls for service” model are as follows:

  • Each 8-hour Animal Control position requires 2,920 hours to fill one shift for 365 days.
  • Officer availability for staffing is determined by deducting from 2,080 hours (the maximum for one year), and the time required for vacation, sick leave, court time, "flex” days and training. In using this model, the average number of hours dedicated to Animal Control for Animal Control will be 1,832 hours (a standardized ratio), or 229 days.
  • Determine the relief factor (relating to the number of officers needed to fill one position for the entire year) by dividing the number of days of work required for each beat area in a year (365) by the average number of days officers actually work in a year. In using this ratio, the 365 divided by 229 = 1.60 officers per day, per beat area.

In most situations, NACA utilizes the "calls for service” model in determining an appropriate number of field personnel.