How to Become an Animal Attendant (With Steps and FAQs)
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Animal attendants help to manage and care for a wide range of animals. There are many career pathways to consider as an animal attendant, including assisting dog groomers or caring for rescued animals in a shelter. If you enjoy working outdoors and have an interest in animal welfare, an animal attendant role may be a good option to pursue. In this article, we define what animal attendants are, explain how to become an animal attendant, list their common duties, share some key skills and provide you with answers to FAQs about these professionals.
What is an animal attendant?
Animal attendants provide daily care for animals in a variety of settings. They may work in grooming parlours, boarding kennels, pet shops, rescue shelters or veterinary clinics. An animal attendant works directly with animals – often with dogs, cats and other smaller animals. They may undertake basic duties, such as feeding, exercising, assisting with animal admissions and reclaims, issuing medication, cleaning facilities or updating animal records.
How to become an animal attendant
If you want to know how to become an animal attendant, you may consider the following five steps:
Many animal centres, especially rescue kennels, are happy to take volunteers. This can be a great first step if you're interested in a career as an animal attendant. It allows you to work directly with animals and experience a range of workplaces. You can search for volunteer roles online or enquire about volunteer positions at your local veterinary clinic or animal rescue organisation.
2. Undertake a traineeship
If you're in high school and interested in working with animals, you can start your career as an animal attendant through a traineeship. This means you can learn about animal attending in a workplace setting as part of your school curriculum. It gives you practical experience in the animal welfare industry and increases your chances of finding employment when you finish school. Employers may require you to complete year 10 before you're eligible.
3. Gain a formal qualification
You can work as an animal attendant without formal qualifications, but you may want to complete a course to gain skills and experience. Technical and Further Education (TAFE) and other registered providers offer Certificate II and III in Animal Studies. Both certificates require you to complete specific units and a minimum number of hours of work placement. You can learn administrative work, communication with colleagues, feeding, hygiene and animal care and basic animal first aid. Both qualifications take between six and 12 months to complete.
4. Decide on a specialty
There are many career pathways to consider as an animal attendant. While undertaking your certificate or volunteer work, you may think about what area of animal care most interests you. If you complete your placement in a few different workplaces, you may get a better idea of the area you'd like to pursue. For example, you may enjoy the regular public interaction that an animal shelter offers or you may prefer maintaining enclosures in a pet store or zoo.
5. Apply for an animal attendant role
Once you've gained the relevant skills and experience, the next step is to apply for animal attendant roles. You can use online job boards to search for entry-level positions in your area. You may target roles that interest you and tailor your resume to suit the keywords in each job description. This helps highlight your suitability to a potential employer. If you're interested in dog cleaning and grooming, you may also consider starting your own small business.
Animal attendant duties
An animal attendant performs a variety of tasks depending on the animals in their care. Some general tasks include:
bathing and grooming animals
dusting and spraying insecticides on animals to control pests
treating minor injuries and reporting serious issues to veterinarians
transferring animals between enclosures
assisting with animal behavioural assessments
rescuing neglected or injured animals
interacting with the public and other team members
Animal attendant skills
Skills and attributes you may find useful for a career as an animal attendant include:
Being observant and methodical
This applies to many animal attendant roles, whether grooming or assisting at a veterinary clinic. Close and methodical observation of an animal is especially relevant in rescue centres, where animals may suffer from injuries, illnesses or other trauma. It's important to identify any symptoms and treat them accordingly. Ongoing observation may also be important in kennels or catteries, where pets may experience anxiety when they're away from their owners.
Being physically capable
As an animal attendant, you can expect to spend much of your time handling animals or engaging in other physical activities. You may spend all day engaging in physical tasks, such as cleaning pens and cages, lifting and exercising animals and preparing food. A reasonable level of fitness and agility is usually an advantage for animal attendants.
Being interested in animal welfare
This is one of the key qualities for animal attendants. Your role focuses on ensuring the health and general wellbeing of animals, so enjoying their company and having an interest in their welfare is important. You may often work with scared or sick animals, meaning you're more likely to be an effective animal attendant if you can handle them with confidence and patience.
Being a good communicator
As an animal attendant, you can expect to communicate frequently with your colleagues and the public. Being able to communicate clearly with other team members helps you to relay information about each animal accurately and efficiently. Many animal attendant roles also involve frequent interaction with the public. Clear communication helps avoid misunderstanding and may increase their trust in your services.
Working well in a team
It's likely that as an animal attendant, you may work with several others to manage and care for animals. In a veterinary clinic, this may involve assisting a veterinarian to prepare for an operation. A role in an animal shelter may require you to relay information about an animal's health to a vet or more senior team member. As you're likely to share tasks in an animal shelter, it's important that you regularly inform your colleagues about the ongoing welfare of each animal.
Animal attendant specialisations
Some roles animal attendants may specialise in include:
Assistant animal groomer: This position involves assisting a pet groomer to wash, dry, brush, cut and style pet coats. You may help care for a pet's nails, ears, eyes and skin and may specialise in grooming for animal shows or competitions.
Animal care attendant: This role is specific to animal rescue centres. You may assist with incoming animals, perform administrative tasks, communicate with the public and maintain pet health and enclosures.
Animal attendant: This is an animal care role in a veterinary clinic. You may perform general reception duties and daily clinic routines, such as assisting with surgery preparations and feeding animals.
Kennel or cattery attendant: These roles occur in cat or dog accommodation, where you may help receive incoming pets from their owners. Your duties may include exercising the animals, playing with them, feeding and grooming them, cleaning cages and providing basic healthcare.
Pet shop attendant: As a pet shop attendant, you can expect to interact with both customers and animals. You may assist customers with purchases or engage in daily upkeep, such as feeding and grooming animals and cleaning cages.
FAQs about animal attendants
Here are some answers to common questions about animal attendants:
What does an animal attendant earn?
The national average salary of an animal attendant is $58,766 per year. Your earning potential as an animal attendant is likely to depend on several factors, including your level of experience, the specialisation you've chosen, your qualifications and the state or city where you work. For example, animal attendants in Campbelltown (NSW) earn an average of $65,433 per year, whereas those in Melbourne (VIC) commonly make $55,433 per year.
What sort of workplaces do animal attendants work in?
There are many career pathways for an animal attendant, so you can work in a wide range of settings. These include animal shelters, catteries, dog kennels, dog parlours or salons, pet shops, veterinary hospitals and clinics. You may also find opportunities to work in zoos, theme parks or wildlife parks.
What are working conditions like for animal attendants?
Working conditions vary for each workplace. Animal attendants spend much of their time outdoors or maintaining animal accommodation, such as cages and dog runs. Being an animal attendant can be physically and mentally challenging. If you love animals and being outdoors, it can be a stimulating and fulfilling career. Employers may require you to work on weekends and public holidays.
What are the benefits of a career as an animal attendant?
A career as an animal attendant is ideal for those who enjoy manual work and are passionate about animal welfare. Unlike other animal care careers like veterinary nursing, you can become an animal attendant after one year of formal learning. More people now own pets, so the opportunities for you as an animal attendant to start your own small business, such as pet grooming, are also increasing.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
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