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Getting Started in the Animal Care and Services Industry

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Getting Started in the Animal Care and Services Industry

By nicoj
Published: June 14, 2011 Updated: June 15, 2011

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.

Related Links:

Starting a Pet Shop Business

About the Author:

Nico Janssen
My name is Nico and I'm serving as a moderator for the Community.


When thinking about setting up an animal care and services business, remember to plan for protecting the health of your employees. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has evaluated noise hazards related to animal kennels and found that employee hearing can be affected. You can read about one of these evaluations and learn how you can protect your employees at this link: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/reports/pdfs/2006-0222-3037.pdf. To request a free evaluation of your workplace, go to: www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe.
SBA loans for residents Written by John Semien 12:06 AM, Jun. 16, 2011 You don’t have to be a business owner to get disaster assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration. SBA officials said the agency is providing low-interest loans to homeowners in West Tennessee for things such as roof repair, and also to renters who qualify. This aid is available for victims of the severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and associated flooding that occurred in April. SBA has approved more than $6.5 million in disaster aid in Tennessee regarding the storms, including more than $1.4 million for survivors in West Tennessee. Madison County was a late addition to the disaster declaration, said SBA Public Affairs Specialist Tom Nocera. Nocera said a significant portion of the loans will go to home owners and other residents. “In times of disaster, the SBA provides more loans to home owners and renters than to businesses,” Nocera said. “We know a lot of people who have damage to their roof didn’t find out until the next hard rain came along.” Disaster loan applications are mailed automatically to individuals and business owners when they register with FEMA. Victims also may file an application for recovery assistance from the SBA online, through the SBA’s secure website at https: //disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/. Nocera said some applications already have been mailed out in Madison County and that applicants can get assistance at the Disaster Recovery Center that has been established at the Jackson Center for Independent Living, at 1981 Hollywood D rive. Applications are available at the center, which is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p. m. Monday through Saturday. The center, which had been open seven days a week, will be closed Sundays starting June 19. The deadline for loan applications for physical damage is Aug. 9. Applications for economic injury assistance have to be filed by Feb. 1, 2012. Nocera said applicants should not wait to settle with their insurance company before applying for disaster loan assistance. Advertisement Survivors who receive SBA disaster home loan applications should submit them as soon as possible to receive consideration for a loan or referral to FEMA for grant assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair and moving and storage expenses. If a survivor does not know how much of their loss will be covered by insurance or other sources, SBA will consider making a loan for the total loss up to its loan limits, provided the borrower agrees to use insurance proceeds to reduce or repay their SBA loan, according to an SBA news release. Renters may be eligible for loans of up to $40,000 to repair or replace their disaster-damaged personal property. Homeowners may be eligible for up to $200,000 to repair or replace damaged real estate, plus up to $40,000 to repair or replace their disaster-damaged personal property. Non-farm businesses of all sizes and private nonprofit organizations may be eligible for up to $2 million to repair or replace business assets, including damage to buildings, machinery and equipment, furniture and fixtures, inventory and other business assets. In addition, small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and most private, nonprofit organizations that were or were not physically damaged but which suffered economic losses because of the disaster may also be eligible for loans. Interest rates are as low as 2.6 percent for homeowners and renters, 3 percent for nonprofit organizations and 4 percent for businesses with terms up to 30 years. The release said loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition. For information about U.S. Small Business Administration low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters, businesses and nonprofit organizations, call (800) 659- 2955. The TTY number is (800) 877- 8339. Online, visit sba.gov. — John Semien, 425-9644

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