Animal Care and Service Workers

Animal care and service workers may find themselves working along side veterinarians and other veterinary specialists. However, just because animal care and service workers do not hold a degree, certification or other credentials, the job duties, work environment and stress levels are generally the same. Animal care and service workers have the ability to work in zoos, stables, laboratories, pet stores, boarding kennels, rescue leagues, aquariums, veterinarian hospitals and clinics, or animal shelters.

Animal Care and Service Worker Duties

An animal care takers duty’s depends heavily on where they work. Still, most animal care takers train, feed, water, groom, bathe and exercise animals, as well as clean, disinfect, and repair their cages. Kennel attendants usually care for pets while their owners are away. They take part in all of the duties listed above, plus they assist obedience training, sell pet food and supplies, and prepare pets for travel. Groomers generally specialize in taking care of an animal’s appearance. Groomers can work for themselves, in a practice, pet store, clinic or hospital. Generally groomers tend to dogs and sometimes cats, however some groomers specialize in grooming other animals such as horses (these groomers are called Grooms).

If an animal caretaker works in an animal shelter, his or her duties could include working with cats and dogs, the basic needs of these animals, as well as keeping records of the animals. Experienced animal caretakers in animal shelters can vaccinate newly admitted animals, euthanize the seriously ill, answer phones, screen applicants who want to adopt or educate visitors on neutering and other animal health issues.

Pet sitters take care of pets while their owners are away. This can take place in the animal and owners house, or the pet may stay with the pet sitter. The duties can involve feeding, walking, exercising and playing with the animal.

In zoos, animal care and service workers are known as ‘keepers’. Zookeepers usually assist in raising an animal from the time of birth and provide food, water and clean housing for the animals. Duties also include watching for signs of illness or injury, monitoring eating patterns and changes in behavior while recording all of the information. Depending on the zoo, the zookeeper may work with large groups of animals or they may work with a limited collection of animals, such as large cats.

Animal trainers train animals for all sorts of reasons including riding, performing, security, obedience, or assisting people with disabilities. Trainers use several techniques when training animals, however in most cases trainers provide animals with mental stimulation, physical exercise and husbandry. The three most common animals that trainers train are dogs, horses and marine mammals.

Animal Care and Service Worker Education

If an animal care and service worker is employed by a kennels, shelter, or veterinary hospital, all they need is a high school diploma, GED or equivalent. No additional training is needed or necessary, as training is usually done on the job. Groomers usually work with a mentor as they learn the trade, or a groomer can attend a grooming school and become certified. Zookeepers and animal trainers need much more education and experience before employment. Generally, a bachelor’s degree in biology, marine biology, animal science or some other related field is needed.

Unfortunately for animal care and service workers, advancement is limited. Occasionally a zookeeper can be promoted to senior keeper, assistant head keeper, head keeper, or curator. Sometimes animal care and service workers who are employed in an animal shelter might be promoted to a rescue diver, adoption coordinator or shelter manager, however in most cases, these opportunities  are rare. Animal trainers can attend workshops or courses at a community college or vocational school to further their education and to become certified.

Animal Care and Service Worker Salary

In most cases, animal care and service workers are paid on an hourly basis versus a salary. Hourly wages typically range between $6.50 and $14.00 per hour, however animal trainers can earn up to $21.00 an hour. Most workers begin at an entry-level position, which usually has entry-level pay. However, most workers will find themselves in a job that requires 40 hours per week, including nights and weekends, plus benefits. If a person loves animals and wants to work in one of these fields, then this could be a great position in the veterinary industry. There were over 220,000 jobs available for animal care and service workers last year, and approximately 54% of those were self-employed.