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Careers in Animal Rights

Updated on August 21, 2012

If you're interested in working with animals, there are several different career options you can pursue. You can also satisfy your interest in and desire to support animal rights and welfare through volunteer opportunities, which can give you a wide range of experience in working with animals and will help you develop the skills necessary for a career in that field.

The following is a list of some of the opportunities and jobs available to people who are interested in careers in animal rights.


Veterinarian, Veterinary Technician, and Veterinary Assistant

When most people think of a career that involves working with animals, they immediately think of veterinarians. Veterinary medicine can be a very rewarding, though stressful, career. The school involved in becoming a veterinary is only the beginning of the challenges that face veterinarians.

Typically you will complete four years of undergraduate work in a science (usually biology, chemistry, or animal science), then four years of veterinary school, followed by a year-long internship, and even several years as of residency depending on your veterinary specialization. Getting into veterinary school is extremely competitive: you will need excellent grades, in addition to substantial experience working or volunteering in a vet office, on a farm, in an animal shelter, or in another capacity in which you have direct contact and responsibility with animals.

The American Veterinary Medicine Association lists veterinary programs, specializations, and other information for future and current veterinarians on its website.

You might also consider being a veterinary technician, which is similar to a nurse for animals. Veterinary technicians also can pursue specialties; the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America lists them and other resources on its website.

Animal Behaviorist or Trainer

Both animal behaviorists and animal trainers work with animals in a variety of settings—zoos, aquariums, veterinary clinics, animals shows, people's homes. There are, however, differences between not only the jobs that animal behaviorists and animal trainers do, but also the training and education required for each career.

Both careers work with animals; however, while animal trainers train animals, such as dogs, and help people learn to train their own pets, animal behaviorists study animal behavior and behavioral issues from a scientific and biological standpoint—almost like animal psychologists. In fact, most animal behaviorists hold PhDs or DVMs in veterinary medicine, animal science, animal behavior, psychology, or cognitive science. There are no degree programs or educational requirements for animal trainers, although many training programs do exist. Animal behaviorists usually have to be certified as behavioral specialists in order to work with animals in any setting, while certification for animal trainers is optional and voluntary.

Biologist or Zoologist

These are both careers that require educations in science (biology, zoology, wildlife science) and substantial experience working in the field with animals. Biologists and zoologists can work in zoos, for government agencies, for wildlife conservation programs, and other organizations that promote the welfare and well-being of animals on the local, national, and international levels. At least a Master's degree (and often a PhD) is required in this field.


If you're a social worker, animal behaviorist, or psychologist, you can specialize in animal-based therapy, such as canine-assisted or equine-assisted therapy. In animal-assisted therapy, animals work with therapists to help their clients overcome a variety of physical, emotional, learning, and other issues. In recent years, canine-assisted therapy has been used to help military veterans who have had traumatic experiences.

As a dog trainer, you can specialize in training therapy dogs who will work in these situations; however, you do not need to be a trainer or behaviorist to have your dog certified as a therapy dog.

You can also volunteer with organizations that employ animals as therapists, such as Lothlorien Therapeutic Riding Center, Inc., and still reap all the rewards that come from working with animals and people.

Blue Cross poster from World War I.  Blue Cross has been caring for sick and injured horses since 1897, including during WWI, and opened the first animal hospital in the world in 1906.
Blue Cross poster from World War I. Blue Cross has been caring for sick and injured horses since 1897, including during WWI, and opened the first animal hospital in the world in 1906. | Source


As a lobbyist, you can influence anti-cruelty bills and humane legislation that affect animals and animal rights. Since most lobbyists are lawyers, you will need to complete a Bachelor's degree as well as your law degree (JD), then become licensed to practice law by your state's bar. Lobbyists and lawyers can specialize in animal law, and work for a variety of organizations that defend and support animal rights. The Animal Legal Defense Fund helps to advance animal rights in the legal system.

Photographer, Artist, or Writer

If you're a creative person and enjoy photography, writing, or another form of art, you can use your work to promote animal rights and welfare. While it's difficult to break into any of these fields, you can still create a rewarding career for yourself by using your talents and passion to support and promote animal rights.


There are many opportunities to work with animals and support animal rights in a volunteer capacity. You can walk dogs at your local animal shelter. Check with your state's DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) for the requirements and regulations to become a wildlife rehabilitator; most areas have a wildlife rehabilitation organization that will train volunteers and give them advice on becoming certified. There are also opportunities to volunteer internationally with organizations focused on wildlife conservation, rehabilitation, and other animal rights issues.


AfriCat Foundation.

Animal Behavior Society.

American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.


Blue Cross.

Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.

Elephant Nature Park.

GVI—wildlife and conservation programs.

Soi Dog Foundation.


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I couldn't plssiboy agree more.I've posted a couple of times on this subject, in the desperate attempt to make people realise that when your animal is ill or even if you just suspect it is Yahoo Answers is NOT the place to go!This is the place for ideas for pets names, support when you're grieving, sharing of experiences, stuff like that. I agree that asking for opinions is OK but NOT when the opinion is on whether or not you should fork out when your dog is seriously ill! This subject often results in the debate as to whether or not you should have a pet if you can't afford it. I guess this is a matter of opinion I mine is that NO you shouldn't. It's just not fair on the animal, and I think it's irresponsible. The words i can't afford the vet' upset me alot. Haven't people HEARD of pet insurance? I assume the majority of people wouldn't ask for home remedies if their child had severe vomiting and diarrhoea? Still I suppose you never know with some people.This subject is the reason I signed up to Yahoo in the first place.Chalice Was this answer helpful?

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I think it is combination of thngis. One the most obvious would be financial concerns. Not everyone can afford an vet office visit so they come here hoping to find out it is not serious problem or there is a home remedy. Granted some folks are just cheap, but for some folks it is a question of putting food on the table or paying rent verses taking the pet to the doctor. I remember eating mac+cheese and top ramen for over month and heating the house with fire wood scavenged from a friend's property to pay the vet bill for the family dog. But some of these people might already be at this stage and just cannot find the money.Another thing I have seen in humans and their own health problems is denial. One of jokes we use have in the ER was that the first symptom of a heart attack is denial. They attribute the chest pain to something else like indigestion. I think some owners are the same with their pets. They are still in denial when they come here but have developed a worry that it might be more, but need convincing.Another but probably less common reason is how dependent our society has become to the inter-net. Some folks are so web oriented, they have to look into it on the net before they pickup a phone or leave the house. Was this answer helpful?

    • bamuscarella profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Buffalo, NY

      Thanks for the comments! Working with animals does require a lot of education and experience, which I don't think many people realize. I think it requires a certain kind of strength, too: while it's fun to work with animals, it's also difficult and dispiriting when you encounter abused, sick, and neglected animals, and you wonder how a person could treat another living being with such cruelty.

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 

      6 years ago

      Wow, I hadn't realized how many ways one could work with or for animals. Very interesting, thanks for sharing. voted up

    • GiblinGirl profile image


      6 years ago from New Jersey

      Great information. I think you really highlighted that working with animals is an important job that requires real training and intelligence.


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