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Helping Animals as a Career

From being a veterinarian to a wildlife specialist to working in television and creating programs about animals, there are numerous ways you can make a difference for animals in your lifetime.


People who work with animals can have a variety of backgrounds. People who are interested in a career working with animals might take classes in biology, zoology, animal behavior, and animal health sciences in college. Certain careers, such as those working in veterinary fields, require an extensive medical education.

Here’s a look at possible career opportunities at an animal shelter:

Animal Behaviorists learn and observe how animals related to each other and to people. While an animal behaviorist may work in a variety of animal-related settings, like a zoo or an aquarium, some animal behaviorists work at animal shelters or assist pet owners with pet behavior problems. In this role, the animal behaviorist helps the human companion better understand why pets do the things they do and how to solve behavior problems. This job requires an extensive education in animal behavior.

Animal care attendants provide the actual day-to-day care for the shelter pets. They clean kennels, provide food and water to the animals, and may administer medications. It’s a very hands-on job that puts you in direct contact with animals every day. Some shelters look for volunteers to assist with these duties. It’s a great way to get started working for an animal shelter.

Animal shelter veterinarians treat sick or injured animals and provide well-care exams for the animals at the shelter. They are responsible for the individual care of all the shelter pets as well as the health and well-being of the entire shelter population. Shelter veterinarians make sure that the animals coming into the shelter don’t spread diseases to the other animals in the shelter. They spay and neuter adopted pets to ensure they won’t contribute to the pet overpopulation problem. The job requires an extensive education, including veterinary school.

Adoption counselors help people find the right pet for their family’s lifestyle. They have to learn about the potential adopter’s needs as well as the various personalities of all the animals available for adoption. Making the right match helps ensure that a pet has found a permanent home and won’t be returned to the animal shelter. This is good for someone who likes to work with both people and animals.

Cruelty investigators respond to complaints about people who may be hurting or neglecting their pets. They may work with an animal shelter, animal control facility, or police department handling animal cruelty investigations. Investigators can usually enforce cruelty laws by making arrests of giving citations if only a minor law is broken. Cruelty investigators are like animal detectives. They have to help law enforcement officials and prosecutors collect evidence to prepare an animal cruelty case for trial. This job usually requires training in law enforcement and investigation techniques.

Fundraising specialists help organize events that raise money for the animal shelter’s many programs. Animal shelters can’t operate or care for the animals without money to support their programs and services as they are supported solely on contributions from the community. Fundraising specialists are important to keep the work of the agency going. This job is great for a person who likes to organize events and enjoys working with people.

Humane educators present programs to youth and adults on various humane topics, including pet responsibility, bite prevention, and kindness to animals. Their role is to educate the public and influence the community’s view and behavior towards animals. Their presentations are often given in schools, at business club meetings, or at the shelter. Teachers or people who worked in classrooms and are comfortable speaking before groups often fill these jobs.

Humane society directors run an animal shelter where the ultimate goal is to ensure the humane care and treatment of the animals. The director supervises staff and ensures that the shelter’s programs and services are helping homeless pets. They also have to find individuals and donors to donate to the agency, since humane societies are funded entirely by private donations. This job usually requires a lot of people skills, as the director usually works more with people in the community than the animals in the shelter.

Public relations specialists work with the media to inform the community about the work of the shelter as well as important issues related to the humane care and treatment of animals. They usually write press releases, newsletters, and other promotional materials to help get the word out on the agency. This is a great job for people who love to write, give media interviews, and speak to the public.

Shelter managers generally oversee all the activities associated with the daily care and maintenance of the animal shelter and shelter staff. They might handle receiving animals, making sure they are given health checks and vaccinations. Or they may work with the human clients that come into the shelter to adopt or surrender an animal. This job requires supervisory skills and an interest in working with both people and pets.

Veterinary technicians work at animal shelters, but most work at veterinary hospitals. Their job involves direct contact with both animals and people. Mostly, they assist veterinarians in caring for injured or sick animals or providing healthy animals with check-ups. They may handle doing lab tests or preparing the operating room for surgery. This job requires special vocational training classes or specific experience with animals.

Volunteer coordinators find volunteers that want to donate time to help the animal shelter. Volunteer coordinators oversee the scheduling and daily activities of these volunteers for the shelter’s special events or daily operations. Often volunteers can only come for a few hours a week or month, so the coordinator has to find lots of volunteers to help cover all the available time slots. All animal shelters depend heavily on volunteers to provide general animal care, fundraising help, and outreach services to the community.