You are here
Getting Started in the Animal Care and Services Industry
Comments welcome on this page. See Rules of Conduct.
Getting Started in the Animal Care and Services Industry
By Ashley Cassels
A love for animals may drive your passion to begin a career in the animal care and services industry, but you will need more than that to ensure professional success. Groomers, kennel attendants, trainers, and pet sitters each have a unique set of responsibilities. Read on for detailed descriptions of what to expect in each of these professions.
Types of Animal Care Businesses
If you want to start an animal care business, first think about the type of services your business will provide. Below we’ll review a few of the more popular animal care professions.
Groomers– specialize in maintaining a pet's appearance. Groomers work in kennels, veterinary clinics, and pet supply stores. Although, some groomers choose to operate independently at a salon or by making house calls. Mobile grooming services have also become increasingly popular because of the convenience for pet owners, flexibility of schedules for groomers, and the minimal trauma imposed on pets by keeping them in familiar surroundings. An important responsibility for groomers is cleanliness and sanitization. Groomers should also collect general information on the pets' health and behavior, which often results in them being the first to notice a medical problem like an ear or skin infection that requires veterinary care.
Kennel Owners– specialize in offering extended stay and care for pets while their owners are working or are out of town on travel. Basic kennel responsibilities include tasks like feeding and exercising the animals and maintaining a clean living environment for the animal. Tasks requiring more experience include providing animal healthcare, grooming services, obedience training, or prepare animals for shipping.
Trainers- train animals for riding, security, obedience, or assisting people with disabilities. The three most commonly trained animals are dogs, horses, and marine mammals. A common practice among animal trainers is familiarizing the animal to the human voice and human contact and teaching the animal to respond to commands
Animal training involves a lot of small steps and often takes months, even years of repetition to perfect. In addition to hands-on work with the animals, trainers sometimes oversee other aspects of the animal’s care, like preparing their diet and providing a safe and clean living environment.
Pet sitters–look after one or more animals when their owner is away, typically by traveling to the pet owner’s home to carry out the daily routine. Most pet sitters feed, walk, and play with the animal, but some more experienced sitters may be required to bathe, train, or groom them. By not removing the pet from its normal surroundings, trauma is reduced and the animal is able to better maintain its normal diet and exercise schedule.
Training, Certification and Education
As mentioned in the article, “Starting a Pet Shop Business”, on-the-job training is the most common way animal care and service workers gain the experience they need. Depending on the type of profession, some roles require formal training and education.
Groomers - typically learn their trade by completing an informal apprenticeship, usually lasting 6 to 10 weeks, under the guidance of an experienced groomer. Prospective groomers can attend state-licensed grooming schools located throughout the country, with programs varying in length from 2 to 18 weeks. Contact your State Labor Office to find a state-licensed school in your area.
The National Dog Groomers Association of America offers certification for master status as a groomer. To earn certification, applicants must demonstrate their practical skills and pass two exams.
Kennel owners- are not required to have any specialized training or education, however completing training programs and having experience as a kennel operator or attendant will strengthen the trust your customers have in your ability to provide adequate care for their animals. Training programs and workshops are available through the Humane Society of the United States, the American Humane Association, and the National Animal Control Association. Workshop topics include investigations of cruelty, appropriate methods of euthanasia for shelter animals, proper guidelines for capturing animals, techniques for preventing problems with wildlife, and dealing with the public.
The Pet Care Services Association also offers a three-stage, home-study program for individuals interested in pet care. Those who complete the third stage and pass oral and written examinations become Certified Kennel Operators (CKO). Depending on the types of animals and breeds of animals your kennel will house, certain certifications are required. It is important for you to contact your State Labor Office to learn more about the necessary certifications or permits you will need to obtain for your kennel.
Trainers- often need a high school diploma or GED equivalent, although some animal training jobs require a bachelor's degree and animal specific skills, which are determined by the type of animal you will be working with. For example, marine mammal trainers usually need a bachelor's degree in biology, marine biology, animal science, psychology, or a related field. Most equine trainers learn their trade by working as a groom at a stable. Some study at an accredited private training school. Many dog trainers attend workshops and courses at community colleges and vocational schools.
Pet sitters- are not typically required to have any specific training, but some form of previous experience with animals is usually preferred by customers. The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters offers a two-stage, home-study certification program for individuals wanting to become pet care professionals.
Groomers, kennel owners, trainers and pet sitters need one or more federal, state or local licenses or permits before operating. Licenses can range from a basic operating license to very specific permits, (e.g., environmental permits).
Since regulations vary by industry, state and locality, it's very important to understand the licensing rules where your business is located.
The type of licenses and permits you need will also vary depending on the type of care you provide, the type of animals you care for, and whether you work out of your home or a stand-alone facility. For example, if you plan to bathe animals as part of your care, you will likely need to contact your state’s environmental agency to ensure that you are following the correct procedures for discharging soaps, flea baths, or other substances into the sewer.