Pet Care Worker
Pet Care Worker
Education and Training: None
Salary: Median—$8.39 per hour
Employment Outlook: Very good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Pet care workers provide a wide variety of services for the owners of small animals, such as dogs, cats, and birds. Pet care workers are employed in animal hospitals, boarding kennels, animal shelters, pet grooming establishments, pet training schools, and pet shops. Some pet care workers have their own businesses.
There are many kinds of pet care workers. Kennel attendants care for animals in their kennel while the owners are away from home. They feed and give water to the animals and keep their quarters clean. They watch the animals closely to make sure that they are in good health. They often exercise animals and keep records on the animals' health, feeding, and breeding patterns. At times they may have to euthanize (put to death) some diseased, elderly, or unwanted animals.
Animal groomers bathe pets and use special solutions to keep them free of fleas, ticks, and other pests. They often brush and trim their hair and cut their nails. Dog trainers teach dogs to hunt or track, to obey signals or commands, to guard lives or property, to run races, or to lead the blind. Dog guide instructors train dogs to assist blind people in finding their way to such routine places as their offices and grocery stores. They may also train dogs to assist other disabled people in the completion of daily activities. Handlers hold and command trained animals during a show, sporting match, or hunt. Animal breeders arrange for the mating of animals and care for the mother and the young. They usually train or sell the young animals when they reach a certain age. They often specialize in one breed, such as German shepherd dogs or Siamese cats.
Pet shop owners care for the birds, fish, cats, dogs, and other animals that they offer for sale. They also interact with customers. In addition, they must take care of the business details involved in running a store.
Education and Training Requirements
There are no special education requirements for most jobs in pet care. Many employers prefer to hire high school graduates. Prospective pet care workers need to know about the needs and habits of animals to work in this field. Candidates can learn about animals by having pets of their own or by working part time or during summers in a kennel or pet shop. Some people get started by taking care of pets when the animals' owners are away.
To prepare for a job in this field, interested individuals may want to take courses in biology and animal husbandry. In some cases candidates will need special training. For example, schools that train guide dogs for the blind have programs to train the instructors; prospective instructors learn to teach the guide dogs and their blind owners to work together. In other cases candidates learn on the job. If starting a kennel or pet shop is desired, take courses in business management, such as bookkeeping.
Getting the Job
Apply directly to animal hospitals, boarding kennels, animal shelters, pet shops, and other places that employ pet care workers. Also check newspaper classifieds and Internet job banks. Private and state employment agencies may also be helpful in finding a job.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Pet care workers can advance to become supervisors in large animal hospitals, kennels, or pet shops. Some experienced workers start their own kennels or pet shops. A few pet care workers go on to college and become veterinarians. Pet care workers can also increase their earnings by developing skills in special fields, such as grooming, training, or breeding animals.
There will be openings to replace workers who leave the field. Because more people are expected to take advantage of pet care services, the number of jobs should increase, and job opportunities should be very good through the year 2014. The best jobs will go to those who have the most experience in caring for animals.
Pet care workers must enjoy being around animals. They may work indoors or outdoors. They must not be bothered by the odor of animals and should not mind cleaning up after them. Their work may involve lifting heavy animals and equipment. Sometimes they must drive station wagons or trucks to pick up or deliver pets. The work involves interacting with people, so workers should be friendly and courteous.
Many pet care workers work forty hours a week. Some workers must also work or be on call in the evenings or on weekends. There are some jobs for part-time workers to care for animals at night or on weekends. Some workers care for animals on an around-the-clock basis with some time off during each day. In these situations the employers often provide attendants with living quarters near the kennel. Pet shop workers and owners often work more than forty hours a week.
Where to Go for More Information
American Veterinary Medical Association
1931 N. Meacham Rd., Ste. 100
Schaumburg, IL 60173
National Dog Groomers Association of America
P.O. Box 101 Clark, PA 16113
Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council
1220 19th St. NW, Ste. 400
Washington, DC 20036
Earnings and Benefits
Earnings vary widely depending on the location, the type of job, and the worker's experience. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the median hourly income of pet care workers is $8.39. Benefits vary, but employers may provide paid vacations and holidays, health insurance, and pension plans. Self-employed workers must provide their own benefits.