Animal shelter worker

An animal shelter worker


Animal shelter workers provide animal care routine services at the animal shelter. They receive animals brought to the shelter, respond to calls about lost or injured animals, nurse animals, clean cages, handle papers for adoption of animals, transport animals to the veterinarian and maintain database with the animals present in the shelter.

The duties of an animal shelter worker include, but are not limited to:

  • Interviewing potential adopters to ensure they are appropriate candidates, such as having a stable home environment and being able to provide adequate care for the animal
  • Preparing animals for adoption by bathing them, brushing their fur, clipping their nails, and cleaning their cages or kennels
  • Providing medical attention to sick or injured animals until they are well enough to be adopted
  • Helping with adoption events, including meet and greets with potential adopters and answering questions about adoption procedures and requirements
  • Helping with animal intake by performing physical examinations on new animals to determine if they are healthy enough for adoption
  • Providing foster care for animals that are too young or need special attention before being ready for adoption
  • Assisting in the adoption process by answering questions about animal behavior and care or helping potential adopters select an animal that will fit into their lifestyle and home environment
  • Cleaning cages and feeding animals, including providing food, water, and bedding materials such as wood shavings or straw
  • Transporting animals to veterinarians for treatment or to other facilities such as pet stores or groomers

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to animal shelter worker:

animal helper
animal shelter employee
animal shelter assistant
animal shelter helper
animal washer

Working conditions

Animal shelter workers typically work in animal shelters, but some may also work in veterinary clinics, zoos, or animal rescue organizations. They typically work full time, but some may work part time or on an as-needed basis.

Animal shelter workers typically work with a variety of animals, including dogs, cats, rabbits, and other small animals. They may also work with reptiles, birds, and larger animals, such as horses.

Animal shelter workers typically work with a team of other animal care professionals, such as veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and animal caretakers. They may also work with animal control officers to help enforce laws related to animal welfare and to help rescue animals from abusive or neglectful situations.

Minimum qualifications

Although no formal educational credential is required to become an animal shelter worker, in most cases, employers prefer to recruit candidates with at least a high school diploma. Some shelters may require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in animal science or a related field. These degrees can help prepare shelter workers for management positions.

Most animal shelter workers receive on-the-job training. This training may include learning about the organization’s policies and procedures, animal handling and the use of equipment. Training may also include instruction on how to handle animals and how to perform daily tasks.

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 shelter worker is a Skill level 2 occupation.

Animal shelter worker career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to animal shelter worker.

kennel worker
kennel supervisor
dog breeder
dog trainer
guide dog instructor

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of animal shelter worker. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of animal shelter worker with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

animal hydrotherapist
animal massage therapist
animal embryo transfer technician
alternative animal therapist
equine dental technician

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of animal shelter worker.

  • 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.
  • Physiology of animals: The study of the mechanical, physical, bioelectrical and biochemical functioning of animals, their organs and their cells.
  • 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 shelter worker.

  • Control animal movement: Direct, control or restrain some or part of an animal’s, or a group of animals’, movement.
  • Advise customers on appropriate pet care: Provide information to customers on how to feed and care for pets, appropriate food choices, vaccination needs, etc.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Interview people: Interview people in a range of different circumstances.
  • Create animal records: Create animal records according to industry relevant information and using appropriate record keeping systems.
  • 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 adoption: Find people who want to adopt animals from the shelter, help them in their choice and manage all the necessary paperwork.
  • Work with veterinarians: Consult veterinarians and assist them in the examination and nursing of animals.
  • Instruct on animal care: Provide employees in animal care with information on how to treat the animal, the animals eating habits, nutrition and medical condition and needs.
  • Dispose of dead animals: Dispose of dead animals which are not considered a source of meat. Bury or cremate the animal based on the wishes of the owners or on other criteria.
  • 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.
  • Train dogs: Train dogs to behave appropriately and obey their owners’ commands. Use a variety of techniques like clicker training, relationship-based training or dominance-based training to obtain favourable behaviours in the dog.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of animal shelter worker. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • 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.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of animal shelter worker. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Communicate with customers: Respond to and communicate with customers in the most efficient and appropriate manner to enable them to access the desired products or services, or any other help they may require.
  • Order supplies: Command products from relevant suppliers to get convenient and profitable products to purchase.
  • Unload supplies: Remove deliveries from a truck and move new supplies to workplace or storage area.
  • 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.
  • Advise on animal purchase: Advise clients and customers on the purchase of animals.
  • Maintain equipment: Regularly inspect and perform all required activities to maintain the equipment in functional order prior or after its use.
  • 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.
  • Maintain welfare of animals during transportation: Keep the health and welfare of animals during transportation, including frequent monitoring for signs of stress and symptoms of ill health.
  • Wear appropriate protective gear: Wear relevant and necessary protective gear, such as protective goggles or other eye protection, hard hats, safety gloves.
  • Assist customers: Provide support and advice to customers in making purchasing decisions by finding out their needs, selecting suitable service and products for them and politely answering questions about products and services.
  • Work in shifts: Work in rotating shifts, where the goal is to keep a service or production line running around the clock and each day of the week.
  • Provide dog walking services: Provide dog-walking services, including activities such as agreement of services with the customer, selection and use of handling equipment, interaction with the dog, and safe and responsible dog walking.
  • Assess character: Assess how a certain person will react, verbally or physically, in a specific situation or to a specific happening.
  • Administer appointments: Accept, schedule and cancel appointments.
  • 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.
  • Promote animals: Provide information to potential animal adopters about the animals in the shelter. Take pictures of the animals, describe their characteristics and put the profiles on a web site if applicable.
  • 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.

ISCO group and title

5164 – Pet groomers and animal care workers

  1. Animal shelter worker – ESCO
  2. Animal Shelter Worker Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More – Climb the Ladder
  3. Featured image: By Layabehzadi – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
Last updated on November 28, 2022

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