Animal Caretaker Jobs
There are many different opportunities within the animal caretaking field. The specifics of each job vary depending on the venue of employment, species or breed of animal and job title. Animal caretakers must truly love animals, as most jobs are physically demanding, often unpleasant and do not pay well. Most employers provide on-the-job training and require only a high school diploma, although some jobs may require a bachelor’s degree in animal science, biology or a similar discipline. Some specific positions within the field are groomer, groom, kennel attendant, keeper, trainer and shelter worker.
Groomers essentially pamper animals. They typically groom either dogs or cats, focusing on the appearance and comfort of the animal. Duties often include bathing, brushing, trimming and styling the fur; clipping the nails and cleaning the ears of the animal. Kennels, veterinary clinics, pet-supply stores and shelters are just a few of the venues that employ groomers. There are pet salons that specialize in animal grooming, as well as groomers that make house calls, either independently or as part of a grooming business.
Grooms are special caretakers of horses that usually work out of stables but may be hired independently. The responsibilities of a groom include cleaning stalls; supplying fresh bedding and feed; storing, organizing and inventorying supplies; saddling and unsaddling the horses; brushing, grooming and giving them rubdowns; walking them after a ride and sometimes training them.
Kennels are businesses that care for pets when their owners are out of town or indisposed for long periods of time. The kennel attendant is responsible for all aspects of the care of animal boarders. This includes refilling food and water bowls, cleaning cages and dog runs and exercising the animals. Some kennels offer additional services, like bathing, grooming, training and breeding assistance.
Keepers typically work at venues that house many different animals, like circuses and zoos. Animal keepers, especially zookeepers, must usually have a significant amount of experience caring for animals or a related college degree. As keepers often deal with exotic and varied species, they must not only feed, but prepare specialized diets for the animals under their care. They are also responsible for the cleaning and maintaining of enclosures, cages and habitats. Keepers must also monitor and document the health, eating habits and behavior of the animals on a daily basis.
Trainers work directly with animals to train them for a number of different purposes. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “the three most commonly trained animals are dogs, horses, and marine mammals, including dolphins.” The goal of training is to teach the animal to respond to gestures and verbalizations in a desired manner. This may include breaking horses, teaching commands, giving dogs behavioral and obedience training, teaching tricks or training an animal to aide someone with a disability. Most training techniques use some sort of system of positive reinforcement. In addition to initial training, trainers may also be required to put on shows at zoos, aquariums or circuses or present animals at competitions. Some basic care (feeding, grooming, etc.) is sometimes required of trainers. Animal training usually requires a high level of experience.
Animal shelters often depend largely on volunteer employees, keeping only a small staff of paid employees. Shelter workers are responsible for a number of duties, like cleaning cages and enclosures, feeding and exercising the animals and bookkeeping and secretarial tasks. Workers deal with a large, steady flow of intake and outtake of a variety of animals; accurate documentation is therefore of the utmost importance. Shelter workers also screen and educate adoption applicants. Under veterinary supervision, shelter employees may also be required to administer vaccinations and euthanize (put down) sick or dying animals. Shelter work can be quite emotionally taxing, as employees must deal with a large amount of animal sickness and death.
The title is pretty much self-explanatory. Dog walkers walk dogs for owners who work long hours, suffer from disabilities or just don't have the time to walk their dogs. Most of the time, a dog walker cares for a single dog at a time. However, when schedules coincide for multiple clients, a dog walker will sometimes care for more than one dog at once. Other duties besides walking include playing, watering and cleaning up the dog's lawn steamers.
Farmhands that work on livestock farms, while not traditionally considered animal caretakers, often care for a variety of animals as part of their jobs. Some of the caretaking duties of a farmhand include cleaning horse and cow stalls, chicken coups, pig pens, etc.; feeding various animals; milking cows; collecting eggs; observing and documenting livestock behavior and production and aiding in breeding and birthing.