Companion Animal Protection Careers

Relative Skills and Interests: Good communication, strong animal handling skills, a love for working with animals, ability to remain level-headed when working with fractious animals or those that are victims of abuse or neglect, desire to educate the public about responsible animal guardianship

Position: Animal Care and Adoption Counselor

Job Description: Most animal care and adoption counselors perform a variety of tasks, including animal intakes (surrenders), behavior assessments, feeding animals, maintaining clean facilities, determining the best placement for each animal, and facilitating adoptions.  Some animal care and adoption counselors also assist with basic veterinary care, including administering vaccines.

Opportunities: By virtue of the title, all animal care and adoption staff work at animal care and adoption centers, which can include independently-run animal shelters, as well as those managed by humane societies or rescue groups.

Education and Training Needed: Most animal care and adoption counselors gain knowledge through on-the-job experience.  Others may have previous job experience working at a kennel or veterinarian’s office, and still others have had opportunities at the college level, through internships or animal science coursework.


Position: Manager/ Director of an Animal Care and Adoption Center

Job Description: Managers in this field generally always have prior experience as an animal care and adoption counselor.  Managers are responsible for overseeing daily operations, hiring staff, and making “big picture” decisions to further the mission of the organization.  Managers also coordinate with local animal control offices and other rescues and shelters, and should know all of the current laws and regulations regarding animal welfare and pet guardianship.

Opportunities: By virtue of the title, all managers/directors of an animal care and adoption staff work at animal care and adoption centers.

Education and Training Needed: To move into a managerial position, a college degree is generally required, as are a number of years working in a shelter environment.  Many shelter managers find coursework and/or experience in business or non-profit management very helpful, as well.


Position: Law Enforcement Officer

Job Description: Law enforcement officers can specialize in a variety of fields, but in this context we refer to those who investigate cases of animal cruelty and neglect. They are integral at not only assisting in the prosecution of abusive pet owners, but also helping educate owners who are lacking knowledge of basic animal care, so that they can provide proper care for their animals.  Law enforcement officers who specialize in animal welfare may also investigate the treatment of laboratory animals, agricultural facilities, and methods of resolving conflicts with wildlife.

Opportunities: While most traditional law enforcement officers work at the city or state government level, those who specifically work in this field may be hired by private organizations and work solely on animal investigations.

Education and Training Needed: Law enforcement officers who specialize in animal protection need all of the same training and education as a traditional law enforcement officer.  They need to be especially familiar with current animal protection laws and other laws that relate to rabies quarantines, avian disease, and other regulations imposed by the Center for Disease Control.


Position: Animal Control Officer

Job Description: While law enforcement officers investigate cases of animal cruelty and neglect, animal control officers deal with more day-to-day animal concerns in the community, including stray cats or incessant barking.  An animal control officer’s job is to help prevent and resolve conflicts between animals and community members.  Some animal control offices have kenneling facilities to hold stray animals until they are reclaimed.  An animal control officer’s best known responsibility is making sure that dogs are licensed, rabies vaccinated, and kept on leash in towns with those laws, but they also are involved in other tasks, such as helping manage conflicts with wildlife or feral cat populations.

Opportunities: Police departments

Education and Training Needed: While the training and education needed varies depending on the regulations in each state, many animal control officers have at least some experience or coursework in criminology, law enforcement, or animal science. A high school diploma may allow one into an entry-level position, but having at least an associate’s degree in criminal justice, and additional training as a veterinary technician, is very helpful in this position.  Animal control officers need to be familiar with current animal protection and control laws, as well as the basic rules of criminal procedure.


Position: Humane Educator

Job Description: Humane educators educate members of the public about treating animals, the environment, and each other, with respect and compassion.  This includes teaching about responsible animal care, preventing abuse, neglect, and exploitation, the concerns with animal overpopulation, and wildlife protection.  To some degree, almost every person who works in the field of animal care and protection is also a humane educator.  The primary difference is that humane educators focus primarily on more formal programs.  These include educating children in a classroom setting, as well as providing information to pet owners, parents, and teachers through print or online publications, and other community outreach endeavors.

Opportunities: While some humane educators work directly with school districts or within specific schools, most work within a humane organization or animal care and adoption center (shelter).

Education and Training Needed: Not every humane educator has a degree in education, but it is helpful to have experience teaching or developing education programs.  In most cases, a Bachelor’s degree is required, ideally in education, animal science, or a communications field.

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