Animal Caretaker

Animal caretakers perform various tasks necessary for the survival and well-being of an animal. Duties include everything from cleaning the animals to maintaining cages. Additionally, animal caretakers provide companionship and ensure that the animals in their care are healthy and well-adjusted.

Animal caretakers can work in a variety of settings, such as kennels, zoos, shelters, pet stores, aquariums and veterinary clinics. While work in this field can offer great satisfaction, caretakers may also face emotionally challenging situations.

Training for Animal Caretaker Work

Qualifications for animal caretakers vary widely according to place of employment and job function. Zoos generally require caretakers to hold a bachelor’s degree in biology, animal science or another related field. In addition to formal education, animal caretakers in zoos should have prior experience volunteering or working in an animal care facility.

Caretaking positions in other facilities, such as grooming shops and animal shelters, do not require college education, but they provide mandatory training programs for new employees. Courses in the prevention of animal cruelty, euthanasia, business management, wildlife management, and animal care can be very beneficial for animal caretakers.

Individuals in the field of animal care can also take advantage of several certificate programs. Animal groomers can enroll in a State-licensed grooming school or complete the National Dog Groomers Association of America certification program.

The National Association of Pet Sitters and the Pet Care Services Association also offer certification for pet sitters and kennel operators.

Animal Caretaker Job Description

While animal caretakers provide animals with their basic needs, they also work hard to ensure that the animals are comfortable and happy. Caretakers should be passionate about animals and demonstrate patience and sensitivity.

Animal caretakers may be asked to perform the following tasks:

  • Provide basic necessities, such as food and water.
  • Ensure proper exercise.
  • Monitor and prepare diet plans.
  • Carefully observe animals for changes or abnormalities in behavior or appearance.
  • Groom animals (trim nails and brush and style coat).
  • Clean and sanitize cages and other equipment.
  • Ensure the safety of the animal.
  • Schedule appointments.
  • Maintain animal records.
  • Communicate with pet owners and veterinarians.
  • Administer vaccinations.
  • Respond to public inquiries.
  • Help enforce animal care laws.
  • Evaluate adoption applicants.
  • Educate pet owners on various animal care issues.

Animal caretakers often work night and weekend hours, including holidays. Some positions, particularly those involving care of sports and show animals, may require travel.

Animal Caretaker Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the opportunities in the field of animal care to be excellent, with job growth projected at 21% through the year 2018.

A May 2008 government report cites the median salary for an animal caretaker as just under $20,000. Salaries range from $15,000 to $31,500.

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