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How to Become a Movie Animal Trainer

Updated on July 20, 2021
Kenna McHugh profile image

Kenna wrote, and directed several plays, taught acting for kids. She is a former talent scout and directs and produces.

Screen Junkies
Screen Junkies

"There is that thing about not working with animals and children - I don't think that's true. Although you should never work with donkeys."

— Emma Thompson, Academy Award-Winning Actress

Paws for Effect

I helped one of my friends break into the movie business. She started as a production assistant, and continued working in several movies, then started a job as an animal trainer on her days off.

She trains animals to be actors in movies. Working with animal actors is not easy because you are dealing with animals all day, and you have to like animals to do the job. I mean animals that are actors, too. Though she didn't tell me how much animal actors earn, she did indicate they make good money without the trainers earning equity or residuals.

Paws for Effect is a ranch at an agency for acting animals. They have offices in Los Angeles, Florida, and Vancouver. Film career folks in Florida and Vancouver can jump at the opportunity. You can find your way into the film business working for them if you live in these cities. Apply at these offices, establish a resume before coming to Los Angeles and settling down in Hollywood.

What are Animal Actors?

Animal actors are animals who act in movies, on television and on stage. Animal actors have been around since the inception of the entertainment business. Jesters, storytellers, troubadours, and acrobats used animals for entertainment as far back as Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Animals performed tricks at court, parties, taverns, and carnivals. Animal acts consisted of dancing bears, acrobatic dogs, and agile monkeys.

“A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere.”

— Groucho Marx

Animal Actors Agency

They even have reptiles like snakes, frogs, lizards, and Gila monsters. If you want to see the type of animal actors, go to their website and check out these creatures’ headshots.

They represent felines, all species of cats. I am curious if any of them got lucky and discovered like Lana Turner in the Golden Age of Hollywood. We can’t forget the movie Cats & Dogs.

One of those cats in the movie got discovered while mewing in an alley. A representative from Paws for Effect spotted the beautiful cat in an alley near a local soda fountain. And well, you know the rest of the story.

Macy's Video
Macy's Video

All Types of Animals

Paws for Effect represents all sorts of animals, even lions, tigers, and bears. Oh, my! Let’s not forget livestock for movies made for episodic shows like Outlander, The Crown, Downton Abby, and Victoria.

The Paws for Effect credits are pretty impressive. You can read the credits of any movie or television show and catch their names. Some notable movies are Ocean 11, Princess Diaries, and Charlie Angeles. On Television are former and current series like The West Wing, Judging Amy, and C.S.I.

"I love working with horses. People say you shouldn't work with animals and children; that's wrong. You must only work with children because you only work eight hours a day and I love working with animals. Animals have an honesty that human beings reach to find in their lives at the best of times."

— Colin Farrell, Actor

Other Animal Actor Agencies

Paws for Effect is not the only animal actor agency. There are others you can reach out to and get a job.

  • Animal Actors International Animal Talent Agency
  • Hollywood Paws
  • All Animals Actors International
  • Top Dog Talent Agency
  • Animal Talent Time
  • Le Paws
  • Urban Paws UK
  • Arizona Animal Actors

Japan Times
Japan Times

Retired Animal Actors

There are issues of animals earning bad reputations. They don't work well with the director. The breed is no longer in demand. They are too old to work and can't work anymore. My friend, who works at Paws for Effect, says these out-of-work but appreciated animals are free to a home that is willing to care for them.

They all are without fleas, neutered, healthy, and make great pets. You have to promise that you will provide a home for them. The animal is yours, and you have a celebrity living in your home.

“All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

— George Orwell

Would you like to work with animal actors?

See results

Helping Animals

I reached out to Paws for Effect told them I was writing this article. I wanted to know any ideas of how a fledgling film worker could apply for a job working with animals.

They didn’t reply after several weeks, so I suspect that they were busy milking the cows and sorting the eggs. But, this doesn’t mean you can’t give it a try. If you go to their website, you can email them or call their toll-free number to network or pitch yourself. Good luck, and if you get a job, let me know how it all turns out to help animals get their big break in the movie business.

“The cat will mew, and dog will have his day.”

— William Shakespeare

© 2016 Kenna McHugh


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