So you want a job in animal welfare?

animal cop.jpg

A scene from Animal Planet’s Animal Cops: Philadelphia

The animal cops on TV are heroes to animals — but so are vets, humane educators, volunteer
coordinators and others who work in animal welfare. So how do you break into the field?

I interviewed Ed Powers, Petfinder’s vp of strategic planning (and my dad), to find out. He’s been working in animal welfare for 26 years, and has been an animal caregiver,
animal cruelty officer, director of humane education and director of operations for the Animal Rescue League of Boston.

This is his advice:

1. Volunteer
Ed says anyone can begin by volunteering at their local
animal shelter or veterinary clinic. “Start out by getting some good hands-on
experience with animals,” he says. (You can even sign up in Petfinder’s volunteer database.)

2. Do your homework
While you’re doing this, do some research online, at the library or at your local animal shelter. This way you can get a
good feel for what you are doing. Research types of jobs, what they do and what
it takes to get there.

3. Strategize
Once you feel
like you’ve got an idea of what you want to do, make a plan for how you’re
going to achieve that. If you’re changing career paths, it helps to know what
the career requires and start from there.

4. Take classes
If you want to work in a job that’s more specialized, such as
veterinary technician, formal schooling helps. If you’re still in school,
take science-based classes like biology. Pursue colleges with good science
programs and then begin looking for vet schools or internships, depending on
your career path. This can take a lot of work, but if you’re passionate, it
will all work out.

5. Don’t forget the people

I asked my dad how he would sum up the requirements for
working in animal welfare. He said, “You should have a real interest in or passion
for animals, but you also need strong people skills. Helping animals almost
always means working with or helping people.”

I’ve grown up being
surrounded by animal lovers and shelter people and I know that it is a great
way to do your part in the world. Working in animal welfare can be very satisfying, especially when you look into the eyes of an animal that
you helped save.