Animal care attendants provide routine care for non-production animals, which may include feeding, watering, cleaning, exercise and enrichment, grooming, training and monitoring of the health and welfare, in accordance with national legislation.
The duties of an animal care attendant include, but are not limited to:
- Providing basic medical treatment, such as administering medication or treating minor wounds
- Observing animals for signs of illness or distress and reporting these to the veterinarian
- Feeding and watering animals according to established schedules
- Observing animals for signs of stress or illness and reporting these to supervisors
- Cleaning cages, pens, and other animal enclosures
- Cleaning and maintaining equipment such as cages, kennels, and dart boards
- Preparing food and feeding pets according to instructions given by veterinarians or pet owners
- Preparing food, bedding, and cages for incoming animals
- Preparing and maintaining records of daily activities including feeding schedules and cage cleaning logs
The following job titles also refer to animal care attendant:
laboratory animal care worker
animal care provider
animal retail caretaker
animal rescue caretaker
animal retail carer
animal care worker
animal care specialist
animal care attendants
animal rescue carer
animal rescue officer
animal keeping specialist
Animal care attendants work in a variety of settings, including animal shelters, kennels, zoos, and veterinary clinics. They may work indoors or outdoors, and their work may be physically demanding. They may be required to lift heavy animals and equipment and to clean cages and pens. They may work with a variety of animals, including dogs, cats, birds, and reptiles. They may also work with farm animals, such as horses, pigs, and cows.
Animal care attendants typically work full time, and their hours may include evenings, weekends, and holidays. They may also be on call 24 hours a day in some settings, such as animal shelters.
Most animal care attendant positions require only a high school diploma or equivalent. Some facilities may require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in animal science or a related field. These programs teach students about animal anatomy, physiology, behavior, nutrition and reproduction.
Animal care attendants typically receive on-the-job training from their supervisors or other experienced workers. This training may include how to care for the animals, how to clean the cages and how to feed the animals. Training may also include how to use the facility’s equipment, such as the washers and dryers for cleaning the animals’ bedding.
ISCO skill level
ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:
- the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
- the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
- the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.
Animal care attendant is a Skill level 2 occupation.
Animal care attendant career path
These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to animal care attendant.
Long term prospects
These occupations require some skills and knowledge of animal care attendant. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of animal care attendant with a significant experience and/or extensive training.
Essential knowledge and skills
This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of animal care attendant.
- Biosecurity related to animals: Awareness of hygiene and bio-security measures when working with animals, including causes, transmission and prevention of diseases and use of policies, materials and equipment.
- Signs of animal illness: Physical, behavioural and environmental signs of health and ill health in various animals.
- Animal nutrition: Aspects of how different animal species are fed and provided water. Different types of animal food, the quality criteria for animal food and methods to feed and give water to animals.
- Animal welfare legislation: The legal boundaries, codes of professional conduct, national and EU regulatory frameworks and legal procedures of working with animals and living organisms, ensuring their welfare and health.
- Animal welfare: Universally recognized animal welfare needs as applied to species, situation and occupation. These are:
- need for a suitable environment
- need for a suitable diet
- need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
- need to be housed with, or apart, from other animals
- need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
- Physiology of animals: The study of the mechanical, physical, bioelectrical and biochemical functioning of animals, their organs and their cells.
- Environmental enrichment for animals: Types, methods and use of enrichment for animals to allow the expression of natural behaviour, including the provision of environmental stimuli, feeding activities, puzzles, items for manipulation, social and training activities.
- Safe work practices in a veterinary setting: Safe work practices in a veterinary setting in order to identify hazards and associated risks so as to prevent accidents or incidents. This includes injury from animals, zoonotic diseases, chemicals, equipment and working environment.
- Anatomy of animals: The study of animal body parts, their structure and dynamic relationships, on a level as demanded by the specific occupation.
- Animal behaviour: The natural behavioural patterns of animals, i.e. how normal and abnormal behaviour might be expressed according to species, environment, human-animal interaction and occupation.
Essential skills and competences
These skills are necessary for the role of animal care attendant.
- Control animal movement: Direct, control or restrain some or part of an animal’s, or a group of animals’, movement.
- Manage animal biosecurity: Plan and use appropriate biosafety measures to prevent transmission of diseases and ensure effective overall biosecurity. Maintain and follow biosecurity procedures and infection control when working with animals, including recognising potential health issues and taking appropriate action, communicating site hygiene control measures and biosecurity procedures, as well as reporting to others.
- Provide nutrition to animals: Provide food and water to animals. This includes preparing food and water for animals and reporting any changes in the animal feeding or drinking habits.
- Provide an enriching environment for animals: Provide an enriching environment for animals to allow the expression of natural behaviour, and including adjusting environmental conditions, delivering feeding and puzzle exercises, and implementing manipulation, social, and training activities.
- Assist in transportation of animals: Assist with the transportation of animals, including the loading and unloading of animals, the preparation of the transport vehicle, and maintaining the wellbeing of the animal throughout the transport process.
- Provide first aid to animals: Administer emergency treatment to prevent deterioration of the condition, suffering and pain until veterinary assistance can be sought. Basic emergency treatment needs to be done by non-veterinarians prior to first-aid provided by a veterinarian. Non-veterinarians providing emergency treatment are expected to seek treatment by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
- Manage animal welfare: Plan, manage and evaluate the application of the five universally recognised animal welfare needs as appropriate to species, situation and own occupation.
- Apply safe work practices in a veterinary setting: Apply safe work practices in a veterinary setting in order to identify hazards and associated risks so as to prevent accidents or incidents. This includes injury from animals, zoonotic diseases, chemicals, equipment and work environments.
- Maintain animal accommodation: Make sure animal enclosures such as habitats, terrariums, cages or kennels are in the appropriate and hygienic condition. Clean the enclosure and provide new bedding material if called for.
- Manage animal hygiene: Plan and use appropriate hygiene measures to prevent transmission of diseases and ensure an effective overall hygiene. Maintain and follow hygiene procedures and regulations when working with animals, communicate site hygiene controls and protocols to others. Manage the safe disposal of waste according to destination and local regulations.
- Implement exercise activities for animals: Provide exercise opportunities that are suitable for respective animals and meet their particular physical requirements.
- Handle veterinary emergencies: Handle unforeseen incidents concerning animals and circumstances which call for urgent action in an appropriate professional manner.
- Monitor the welfare of animals: Monitor animals’ physical condition and behaviour and report any concerns or unexpected changes, including signs of health or ill-health, appearance, condition of the animals’ accommodation, intake of food and water and environmental conditions.
- Assess animal behaviour: Observe and evaluate the behaviour of animals in order to work with them safely and recognise deviations from normal behaviour that signal compromised health and welfare.
- Provide animal training: Provide training in basic handling, habituation, and obedience to enable the completion of day-to-day tasks while minimising the risks to the animal, the handler, and others.
- Advise on animal welfare: Prepare and provide information to individuals or groups of people on how to promote the health and well-being of animals, and how risks to animal health and welfare may be reduced. Provide recommendations for corrective actions.
- Groom animals: Prepare the environment for grooming, select the correct grooming equipment and grooming methods for the animal. Apply occupational health and safety principles of basic animal anatomy and physiology, including the identification and reporting of any abnormalities.
Optional knowledge and skills
This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of animal care attendant. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Animal production science: Animal nutrition, agronomy, rural economics, animal husbandry, hygiene and bio-security, ethology, protection and herd health management.
- Animal training: Animal responses to specific conditions or stimuli. Animal behaviour, ethology, learning theory, training methods, equipment, as well as communicating and working with animals and humans.
- Animal species: The characteristics of different species and breeds of animals (relevant to the occupation).
- Microchip scanners: The different types of scanners available, their limitations, and how to prepare, use and maintain them; the environmental constraints of using a scanner, including what external factors can affect the reading of a microchip, e.g. metal collars, proximity to computer screens etc.
Optional skills and competences
These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of animal care attendant. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Create solutions to problems: Solve problems which arise in planning, prioritising, organising, directing/facilitating action and evaluating performance. Use systematic processes of collecting, analysing, and synthesising information to evaluate current practice and generate new understandings about practice.
- Take advantage of learning opportunities in veterinary science: Use different channels and learning styles such as journals, courses, and conferences to obtain new information, knowledge, skills, and know-how in relation to working with animals.
- Treat animals ethically: Carry out activities according to accepted principles of right and wrong, including transparency in work practices and conduct towards clients and their animals.
- Understand the animal’s situation: Categorise and verify information about the environment and its impact on the animal. Analyse the situation, such as what the animal may want or need.
- Collaborate with animal related professionals: Collaborate with veterinary and other animal related professionals through communication of animal details, case records and summary reports orally or via written or electronic transfer.
- Cope with challenging circumstances in the veterinary sector: Maintain a positive attitude during challenging situations such as a misbehaving animal. Work under pressure and adapt to the circumstances in a positive manner.’
- Establish aquarium: Arrange the aquarium, introduce the species, ensure maintenance and monitoring.
- Calculate rates per hours: Make simple calculations regarding the money that should be earned in relation to the number of hours worked.
- Use different communication channels: Make use of various types of communication channels such as verbal, handwritten, digital and telephonic communication with the purpose of constructing and sharing ideas or information.
- Assess animal’s condition: Inspect the animal for any external signs of parasites, disease or injury. Use this information to determine own actions and report your findings to owners.
- Apply numeracy skills: Practise reasoning and apply simple or complex numerical concepts and calculations.
- Make decisions regarding the animal’s welfare: Make a choice from several alternative possibilities that promote the animal’s well-being.
- Scan an animal to locate a microchip: Scan the animal carefully, using the correct procedure for the type of scanner, to locate the possible presence of a microchip. Check the data on the relevant database or other documentation where a microchip is detected. Use the back track system to identify who implanted the chip, where a chip is not listed in a database.
- Care for juvenile animals: Assess the needs of the offspring and juvenile animals. Take appropriate action without delay in case of problems with the health of the offspring or juvenile.
- Interview animal owners on animals’ conditions: Ask questions appropriate to the setting and purpose, with the aim to elicit accurate information on the animal’s health condition, in order to facilitate a correct diagnosis.
- Have computer literacy: Utilise computers, IT equipment and modern day technology in an efficient way.
- Manage care of veterinary patients in accommodation: Manage the care for veterinary patients in accommodation including the preparation, suitability, hygiene, and monitoring of the condition of animals. Monitor and maintain animal accommodation. This includes selecting and preparing the accommodation for animals, cleaning, and maintenance.
- Deal with challenging people: Work safely and communicate effectively with individuals and groups of people who are in challenging circumstances. This would include recognition of signs of aggression, distress, threatening and how to address them to promote personal safety and that of others.
ISCO group and title
5164 – Pet groomers and animal care workers
- Animal care attendant – ESCO
- Animal Care Attendant Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More – Climb the Ladder
- Featured image: Photo by Mikhail Nilov