So You Want to Work with Animals? A Guide for Youth Who Love Animals

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Kathy Neely, Oregon Humane Society

“Many people tell me ‘I couldn’t do your job,’ and I think – How could you not want to work in a place where you get to make people happy? Get to give people peace of mind? Or get to take animals who have not been treated well and maybe have been abused and give them a brand new home where they can sleep on the couch and do all the other great things pets do?” remarks Oregon Humane Society executive director, Sharon Harmon.

So You Want to Work with Animals? A Guide for Youth Who Love Animals

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Setting a Goal
“I think I’d like to work with animals as a career because they have a way of cheering me up. When I see them hurt I always want to help,” explains Nicole Covey, an Eight Grader from Crow-Applegate Middle School in Crow, Oregon. “I’ve always wanted to be a Marine Biologist since I love dolphins. I could also be a vet tech – anything with animals would be fun for me.” Nicole has many possibilities open to her in animal welfare. She is taking steps to learn more about the things that interest her – she works at a veterinary hospital twice a month, helps at an animal shelter when she can, and is reading “Careers with Animals” by Willow Ann Sirch, published by the Humane Society of the United States. Nicole finds the more time she spends at the veterinary hospital, “the more I go, the more I want to be a vet tech.”

Taking Stock:
By asking yourself these questions, your honest responses may lead you in the right direction:

Do you care deeply about animal welfare?
Are you willing to live on a modest income? Work long hours?
Do you handle stressful situations well?
How would you feel with being misunderstood by those who do not share your love for animals?
Do you want to work directly with the animals – feeding and caring for them?
Do you want to work with people – helping the animals without having daily contact with them?
What about the years of specialized training needed for some animal welfare careers?
How are your writing, speaking, and studying skills?

Do you have a:

High school degree with the following skills developed:
• Organizational
• Leadership qualities
• Committed to animals
• Good communication
• Reliable hard worker
• Team player

You could be:
• Shelter Animal Care Technician (direct care of animals in the shelter)
• Veterinarian Assistant (direct care of animals kenneled at hospital)
• Obedience Trainer
• Pet Sitter
• Groomer

Do you have a:

High school degree with the following skills developed:
• Organizational
• Leadership qualities
• Committed to animals
• Good communication
• Reliable hard worker
• Team player

You could be:
• Shelter Animal Care Technician (direct care of animals in the shelter)
• Veterinarian Assistant (direct care of animals kenneled at hospital)
• Obedience Trainer
• Pet Sitter
• Groomer

“The greatest joy is the biggest challenge – to change the face of dog training toward positive reinforcement and humane methods. To teach and encourage people to treat and train with kinder methods, building a happy relationship with their pets.”
- Tanya Roberts, OHS resident Pet Trainer.

With an:
Associates Degree from a community college with specialized training:

You could be:
• Veterinary Technician (interacts with clients, performs routine tests, conducts initial examination, assists with surgery)
• Humane Investigator or Animal Control Officer (emphasis on criminal justice, working knowledge of current animal welfare laws, investigation and animal rescue skills and certifications, age 21, quick thinker, and ability to defuse tense situations)
• Bookkeeper
• Computer Technician

Working on a:
Bachelor Degree from a four-year university and a have working knowledge and skills in animal care and health:

You could be:
• Executive Director of a humane society (solving problems, business sense, human resource skills)
• Humane Educator (teaching degree, likes children and animals, creative)
• Operations Director of an animal shelter (human resource skills, problem solving abilities, intimate knowledge of how the organization runs, quick thinker)
• Writer (dog/cat training and behavior and general pet issues)
• Accountant

“We are able to make an immediate and positive change in an animal’s life every day, with every knock on the door, in every conversation with a pet owner. While education is our goal, we can and do utilize the tools Oregon’s animal welfare laws afford us in protecting an animal’s well-being.”
- Lt. Randy Covey, Field Investigation Supervisor for OHS.

With an:
Associates Degree from a community college with specialized training:

You could be:
• Veterinary Technician (interacts with clients, performs routine tests, conducts initial examination, assists with surgery)
• Humane Investigator or Animal Control Officer (emphasis on criminal justice, working knowledge of current animal welfare laws, investigation and animal rescue skills and certifications, age 21, quick thinker, and ability to defuse tense situations)
• Bookkeeper
• Computer Technician

Working on a:
Bachelor Degree from a four-year university and a have working knowledge and skills in animal care and health:

You could be:
• Executive Director of a humane society (solving problems, business sense, human resource skills)
• Humane Educator (teaching degree, likes children and animals, creative)
• Operations Director of an animal shelter (human resource skills, problem solving abilities, intimate knowledge of how the organization runs, quick thinker)
• Writer (dog/cat training and behavior and general pet issues)
• Accountant

“The best reward at the end of the day is realizing that a lot of animals found new homes today. That is the result of everyone working hard together – it means we are successful at what we do and the Society is functioning at peak performance. I’m always very proud of that.”
- Susan Mentley, Operations Director for the Oregon Humane Society.


Other animal career choices:

• Wildlife Veterinarian
• Marine Animal Veterinarian
• Naturalist
• Wildlife Refuge Manager
• Animal Photographer
• Writer
• Lawyer
• Lobbyist
• Pet Sitter
• Pet Taxi
• Groomer
• Dog Day Care Provider
• Accountant

At an animal shelter you may also find:
• Bookkeeper
• Telephone Receptionist
• Computer Technician
• Store Clerk
• Custodian
• Event Promotion Coordinator
• Public Relations
• Handy-person
• Data Entry Clerk

What you can do now:
• Check into classes offered at your school that will help you gain the knowledge and skills you need.
• Volunteer at your local animal shelter and/or veterinarian clinic.
• Interview those in the field you are most interested in knowing about.
• Surf the web for more information about animals.
• Research colleges offering education directed toward your interest in animals.
• Join an animal club.
• Read plenty of books about animal welfare subjects.

Resources:
• nahee.org (National Association of Humane and Environmental Educators)
• kindnews.org
• petsitters.com
• APDT.com (Association of Pet Dog Trainers)
• dwaa.org (Dog Writers Association of America)
• hsus.org (Humane Society of the United States)
• 4-h.org

Courtesy of
Kathy Neely
Oregon Humane Society

1067 NE Columbia Blvd.
Portland, OR 97211
voice (503) 285-7722
fax (503) 285-0838
www.oregonhumane.org