to Help Animals As a Career
Have you ever wondered about a career working with animals?
Maybe you see yourself as the next “Crocodile Hunter” (the
wildlife explorer whose show appears on Animal Planet) or simply a
veterinarian for dogs and cats. Thanks to Animal Planet, the “all
animals, all the time” cable network, we can watch shows about our
animal friends 24-hours-a-day, providing lots of career ideas for
animal lovers. From being a veterinarian or wildlife specialist to
working in television and creating programs about animals, there are
numerous ways you can make a difference for animals in your lifetime.
People who work with animals can have a variety of backgrounds.
Usually, one requirement is a great love of animals and a concern for
their well being. People
who are interested in a career working with animals might take classes
in biology, zoology, animal behavior, and animal health sciences in
college. Certain careers,
such as those working in veterinary fields, require an extensive
Choosing a career is one of the most important decisions a person
can make. Your career should make you happy and reflect what you want
to give back to the world. People who care for animals can choose from
several different career paths. One of those paths is to become a
humane professional—these are the people who work at animal shelters
caring for homeless pets.
Here’s a look at some jobs at the animal shelter.
Animal behaviorists learn and
observe how animals relate to each other and to people. While an
animal behaviorist may work in a variety of animal-related settings,
like a zoo or an aquarium, some animal behaviorists work at animal
shelters or assist pet owners with pet behavior problems. In this
role, the animal behaviorist helps the pet by helping the human
companion better understand why pet’s do the things they do. Why
does a dog jump on people? Why is the cat not using the litter box?
And what can be done to change this behavior. Animal behaviorists may
also help shelters identify good-natured pets that should be placed
for adoption and work with other pets that might need a little more
training before being placed in a good home. This job requires an
extensive education in animal behavior.
Animal care attendants
Animal care attendants provide
the actual day-to-day care for the shelter pets. They clean kennels,
provide food and water to the animals, and may administer medications.
It’s a very hands-on job that puts you in direct contact with
animals everyday. Some shelters look for volunteers to assist with
these duties. It’s a great way to get started working for
Animal control agency
An animal control agency director runs a shelter that is funded by the city. They help
animals too, providing many of the same services as a humane society.
The biggest difference is that animal control agencies are concerned
with public safety. They protect people from health risks and the
dangers that stray and lose animals can cause to people in the
community. They often represent the agency at public functions and
manage the overall daily operations of the facility.
An animal shelter veterinarian treats sick or injured animals or provides well-care
exams for the animals at the shelter. They are responsible for the
individual care of all the shelter pets as well as the health and
well-being of the entire shelter population. Shelter veterinarians
make sure that the animals coming into the shelter don’t spread
diseases to other animals in the shelter. They often spay and neuter
adopted pets to insure they won’t contribute to the pet population
problem. The job requires an extensive education, including veterinary
Adoption counselors help people
find the right pet for their family’s lifestyle. They have to learn
about the potential adopter’s needs as well as the various
personalities of all the animals available for adoption.
Making the right match helps ensure that a pet has found a
permanent home and won’t be returned to the animal shelter. This job
is good for someone who likes to work with both people and animals.
Cruelty investigators respond
to complaints about people who may be hurting or neglecting their
pets. They may work with an animal shelter, animal control facility,
or police department handling animal cruelty investigations.
Investigators can usually enforce cruelty laws by making arrests or
giving citations if only a minor law is broken. Cruelty investigators
are like animal detectives. They have to help law enforcement
officials and prosecutors collect evidence to prepare an animal
cruelty case for trial. This job usually requires training in law
enforcement and investigation techniques.
Fundraising specialists help
organize special events to raise money for the animal shelter’s many
programs. Animal shelters can’t operate or care for the animals
without money to support their programs and services. Animal control
agencies usually receive money from the city budget, while humane
societies survive on contributions from the community. Fundraising
specialists are important to keep the work of the agency going. This
job is great for a person who likes to organize events and enjoys
working with people.
Humane educators present programs to
youth and adults on various humane topics, including pet
responsibility, bite prevention, and kindness to animals. Their role
is to educate the public and affect the community’s view and
behavior towards animals. These presentations are often given in
schools, at business club meetings, or at the shelter. Teachers or
people who have worked in classrooms and are comfortable speaking
before groups often fill these jobs.
Humane officers (also known as animal
care and control officers) respond to calls about animals that are
sick, injured, or neglected. Humane officers must have a good
understanding of animal control laws and anti-cruelty laws, since they
help educate the public on the responsible care of animals. This job
requires some lifting, as humane officers frequently have to transport
large or injured animals to the shelter.
A humane society director runs an animal shelter where the ultimate goal is
to insure the humane care and treatment of the animals. The director
supervises staff and ensures that the shelter’s programs and
services are helping homeless pets. They also have to find
individuals and donors to donate to the agency, since humane societies
are funded entirely by private donations. This job usually requires a
lot of people skills, as the director usually works more with people
in the community than the animals in the shelter.
Public relations specialists work with the media to inform the community
about the work of the shelter as well as important issues related to
the humane care and treatment of animals. They usually write press
releases, newsletters, and other promotional materials to help get the
word out on the agency. This is a great job for people who love to
write, give media interviews, and speak to the public.
Shelter managers generally oversee all the activities associated with the daily care
and maintenance of the animal shelter and shelter staff. They might
handle receiving animals, making sure they are given health checks and
vaccinations. Or they may work with the human clients that come into
the shelter to adopt or surrender an animal. This job requires
supervisory skills and an interest in working with both people and
Some veterinary technicians work at animal shelters, but most work at veterinary
hospitals. Their job involves direct contact with both animals and
people. Mostly, they assist veterinarians in caring for injured or
sick animals or providing healthy animals with well-check ups. They
may handle doing lab tests or preparing the operating room for
surgery. This job does not require the special education needed to
become a veterinarian, but special classes or specific experience with
animals can make you more qualified to handle these
A volunteer coordinators’ job is to find volunteers that want to donate time
to help the animal shelter. Volunteer coordinators oversee the
scheduling and daily activities of these volunteers for the
shelter’s special events or daily operations. Often volunteers can
only come for a few hours a week or month, so the coordinator has to
find lots of volunteers to help cover all the available time slots.
Some animal shelters have hundreds of volunteers; some have only a
handful of volunteers. But all animal shelters depend heavily on
volunteers to provide general animal care, fundraising help, and
outreach services to the community.
One final note: If
you are interested in working with animals, you can begin before you
are out of school by volunteering at a local humane society. Your
volunteer work will give you exposure to many different species of
animals while performing a great community service at the same time.
Also read books on animal careers to see how your interests and
concern for animals might become a lifelong career.