Careers in animal welfare

AbbyMac By AbbyMac, 11th Jul 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Jobs>Careers

There are a number of career options available in the field of Animal Welfare. Positions exist that will appeal to a variety of interests and talents, and are appropriate for different education levels. Often on-the-job training is available for those without previous experience.


There are several venues for having a career in Animal Welfare but in this article I will focus on the animal shelter/SPCA/humane society. These are all names for the same type of organization. They accept animals into their facility, both stray and owner released, they house and care for them, and the ultimate goal is to reunite them with their found owner or to find them a new home. These are core functions, but each shelter will have additional functions depending on its purpose and mission.

Kennel Worker

At the basic level is the Kennel Worker. This is the person with the responsibility of the actual daily care of the animals, including cleaning cages and feeding. Additional tasks may include medicating and vaccinations. These animals could be cats, dogs, small animals (rabbits, guinea pigs), or farm animals. This person is often the one that interacts directly with the public who comes in to see the animals. The Kennel Worker's knowledge of the various animals' individual personalities and habits will be of great value to the potential new owner.

This position usually requires no previous experience or college education. It is important that the person interested in this job be familiar with animals and comfortable working around them.

Receptionist/ Office Worker

Another position in the shelter is Receptionist. This is a good job for someone who wants to work with animals but isn't able or willing to do the "dirty work." This person is the face of the shelter, greeting people as they arrive and helping them over the phone. Basic office and computer skills are necessary as is the ability to handle situations involving high emotions with confidence and compassion.


Generally with a college degree higher and somewhat better paying positions are available. These jobs include Manager, Cruelty Agent and Community Educator. Each of these positions has a different focus and tap into a different set of skills.

An Educator must be comfortable with speaking to various groups, from Kindergartners to the elderly in nursing homes, about the goals of the shelter. There may be a mascot that is used to assist the Educator with the different visits and programs. There is less connection with this position and the day to day running of the shelter; this person will be out in the community educating people on a variety of topics from proper pet care to the importance of spaying and neutering.

Cruelty Agent/ Humane Officer

A Cruelty Agent, or a Humane Officer, is the law enforcement arm of the shelter. Qualifications for this job will vary widely from state to state. In some states it is necessary to become a police officer first. In other states a person can be sworn in as just an agent for that specific part of the criminal code. In the latter case it is necessary to call for police assistance in serving warrants or dealing with potentially dangerous situations. It is very important for shelters to maintain a good working relationship with the local police for just this reason. The Cruelty Agent will need to be able to handle confrontations with a level head, be able to testify in court before a judge, and learn to handle the paperwork involved with complaints, citations and warrants. This can be an emotionally grueling job as the Agent will see many cases of senseless cruelty.


A Manager is the overall supervisor of all activities within the shelter. This person is responsible for filling staff positions, ensuring the smooth running of the office and kennel on a day to day basis, maintaining appropriate inventory, approving adoptions and making other decisions. Depending on the size of the shelter the manager may also be responsible for euthanasia, fund-raising, payroll and numerous other functions. In a large shelter each of these tasks may be a complete position in itself. Another important function of the Manager is in communicating with her superiors, either a director or board of directors, who are not nearly as involved with the nitty gritty details of daily life in the shelter. The Directors make policy decisions, allocate funds and give oversight in a more general way.

Working in the Animal Welfare field is not often glamorous or well paid. It can even be discouraging at times. But if it is your desire to help animals with your life on a daily basis then it is the place to be. There is always a need for compassionate people to dedicate themselves and their specific talents to this worthy mission.


Animal Shelter, Animal Welfare, Careers, Cruelty, Educator, Humane Society

Meet the author

author avatar AbbyMac
I am a mother of two teenage girls, living on a farm where we raise award-winning Corriedale Sheep. I have homeschooled for 11 years and currently own a homeschool curriculum store. I enjoy writing about homeschooling, animals and mysteries of the ...(more)

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author avatar Kiran Patel
25th Jun 2011 (#)

I am student of Master of Science (Computer Application) but I am interested in Animal Welfare .How can I get in to this field
? what can be the opportunity for me ?

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