Animal Shelter Assistant Career Profile

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4 January 2024


What is an animal shelter assistant?

An animal shelter assistant cares for stray animals at government run shelters or pounds. They generally help animals that need protection, attempt to find homes for homeless animals, and reunite lost pets with their owners.

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Alternative Names

The name for this career can be slightly different, depending on the country, or even just the organization where the career is situated. Here are some of the alternative names:

  • Animal Shelter Attendant
  • Humane Shelter Assistant
  • Shelter Worker

Similar Career

The people who work with stray animals for non-profit organizations (not government) are called Rescue Center Assistant. Click on the name to see that Career profile.

Career Categories

The animal related careers are organized into categories. Here are the categories in which Animal Shelter Assistant can be found:

  • Animal Care
  • Law & Enforcement

Mostly dogs?

More than 60% of animals in shelters are dogs.

Important numbers?

Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter animal shelters in the USA alone!

What does an Animal Shelter Assistant do?

With which Groups of animals does an Animal Shelter Assistant work with?

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Dogs List Icon OZT
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Farm Animals Icon OZT
Farm Animals
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Animal Shelter Assistants work with a variety of animals, typically focusing on domestic animals and occasionally wildlife. The specific types of animals can vary based on the nature and focus of the animal shelter. Here are the main categories of animals that an Animal Shelter Assistant may work with:


Dogs are commonly housed in animal shelters. Animal Shelter Assistants are responsible for their care, which includes feeding, grooming, exercise, socialization, and basic medical care.


Cats, both domestic and stray, are frequently found in animal shelters. Assistants care for their well-being, providing food, cleaning, socialization, and monitoring their health.

Small Mammals:

Some shelters may also house small mammals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, and ferrets. Animal Shelter Assistants ensure proper housing, feeding, and care for these animals.


Birds, including parrots, canaries, and other small avian species, may be taken in by shelters. Assistants provide appropriate enclosures, nutrition, and enrichment.

Reptiles and Amphibians:

In certain cases, shelters may accommodate reptiles and amphibians. Care involves maintaining appropriate habitats, temperature, and diet.

Farm Animals:

Animal shelters in rural areas or those with a focus on farm animals may house livestock such as goats, sheep, and pigs. Assistants ensure proper feeding, shelter, and overall well-being.

Wildlife (Occasionally):

Some shelters may collaborate with wildlife rehabilitation centers to care for injured or orphaned wildlife temporarily. Animal Shelter Assistants in such cases provide basic care and coordinate with wildlife experts.

Exotic Animals (Rarely):

Exotic animals like snakes, lizards, or small mammals may be found in shelters with the capacity and expertise to handle such species. Specialized care and knowledge are essential for these cases.

Stray or Feral Animals:

Animal Shelter Assistants often deal with stray or feral animals, including cats and dogs. They may implement strategies for capturing, socializing, and rehoming these animals.

Special Needs Animals:

Some shelters may cater to animals with special needs, including those with disabilities or medical conditions. Assistants provide additional care, medication administration, and attention to these individuals.

Animal Shelter Assistants play a crucial role in ensuring the welfare of these animals during their stay in the shelter.

What is the level of Interaction with the Animals?

With whom does an animal shelter assistant work?

An animal shelter assistant works with a variety of individuals and may collaborate with different roles within and outside the organisation. Here are some of the key collaborators for an animal shelter assistant:

Animal Shelter Staff:

Animal shelter assistants work closely with other shelter staff, including shelter managers, animal care technicians, veterinarians, and veterinary technicians. They may coordinate efforts to ensure the overall well-being of the animals in the shelter.


Many animal shelters rely on volunteers to assist with daily tasks, events, and special projects. Animal shelter assistants may train and supervise volunteers, as well as work alongside them to accomplish various tasks.

Veterinarians and Veterinary Staff:

Animal shelter assistants often work in conjunction with veterinarians and veterinary technicians to address the medical needs of animals in the shelter. This collaboration includes administering medications, monitoring health, and assisting with veterinary procedures.

Adoption Counselors:

These professionals assist potential adopters in finding the right pet for their homes. Animal shelter assistants may work with adoption counsellors to provide information about the animals and help facilitate the adoption process.

Animal Control Officers:

In cases where animal shelters are affiliated with or overseen by municipal or county animal control departments, animal shelter assistants may work with animal control officers to address issues related to stray animals, investigations of animal cruelty, and public safety.

Community Partners:

Animal shelter assistants may collaborate with local businesses, rescue organizations, and community groups to organize events, fundraisers, and educational programs. Building positive relationships with the community can help increase awareness and support for the shelter’s mission.

Pet Owners and Potential Adopters:

Animal shelter assistants interact with individuals who are interested in adopting animals. They provide information, answer questions, and guide potential adopters through the adoption process.

Administrative Staff:

Animal shelter assistants often work with administrative personnel to handle paperwork, maintain records, and manage other administrative tasks related to the operation of the shelter.

Effective communication and teamwork are crucial for the success of an animal shelter, and collaboration with various individuals and groups helps create a supportive Environment for the animals and the community.

What are the different specialisations or career directions that an Animal Shelter Assistant can venture into?

Animal shelter assistants play a crucial role in caring for animals in need and helping them find loving homes. There are several specialisations and career directions that an animal shelter assistant can venture into within the animal welfare field. Here are some of them:

Animal Adoption Counsellor:

Assist potential adopters in finding the right pet for their lifestyle and needs. Adoption counsellors assess adopters’ preferences, match them with suitable animals, provide information on pet care and behaviour, and facilitate the adoption process.

Animal Behaviour Specialist:

Focus on understanding and addressing animal behaviour issues in shelter environments. Behaviour specialists work with animals to assess their behaviour, develop behaviour modification plans, provide training and enrichment, and improve their adoptability.

Animal Care Manager:

Oversee the daily operations of the shelter’s animal care department. Care managers supervise staff and volunteers, coordinate animal care routines, ensure compliance with health and safety standards, manage inventory, and maintain records.

Veterinary Assistant/Technician:

Work alongside veterinarians to provide medical care to shelter animals. Veterinary assistants help with exams, treatments, surgeries, vaccinations, and medication administration, as well as maintaining medical records and monitoring recovery.

Animal Welfare Educator:

Develop and deliver educational programmes and outreach initiatives to promote responsible pet ownership, animal welfare awareness, and humane treatment of animals. Educators may conduct school visits, community workshops, and public events to engage and educate the public.

Animal Transport Coordinator:

Coordinate the transportation of animals between shelters, rescue organisations, foster homes, and adoption events. Transport coordinators ensure the safe and efficient movement of animals, handle logistics, arrange foster placements, and coordinate with transport volunteers.

Foster Care Coordinator:

Manage the foster care programme for shelter animals. Foster coordinators recruit and train foster caregivers, match animals with suitable foster homes, provide support and resources to fosters, monitor animal progress, and facilitate foster-to-adopt placements.

Animal Enrichment Specialist:

Focus on providing enrichment activities and environmental stimulation for shelter animals. Enrichment specialists design and implement enrichment plans, create enrichment toys and activities, train staff and volunteers in enrichment techniques, and evaluate enrichment effectiveness.

Humane Law Enforcement Officer:

Work in collaboration with law enforcement agencies to investigate cases of animal cruelty, neglect, and abuse. Humane officers enforce animal welfare laws, rescue animals in distress, gather evidence, and work towards legal resolutions and animal advocacy.

Shelter Director/Administrator:

Lead and manage the overall operations of the animal shelter. Directors oversee budgeting, fundraising, strategic planning, staff management, community relations, policy development, and ensuring the shelter’s mission and goals are met.

These specialisations offer diverse opportunities for animal shelter assistants to make a meaningful impact on animal welfare, advocacy, education, and community outreach within the animal shelter and rescue field.

What does an Animal Shelter Assistant focus on?

Their primary focus is to perform animal care duties, such as feeding and grooming the animals, cleaning enclosures and help monitor the health of the animals,

Daily tasks of an Animal Shelter Assistant

The daily tasks of an animal shelter assistant can vary depending on the size and structure of the shelter as well as the specific needs of the animals. Here is a general list of daily tasks that an animal shelter assistant might perform:

Animal Feeding:

Ensure that all animals in the shelter are fed according to their dietary needs and schedules.

Cleaning and Sanitising:

Clean and sanitise animal enclosures, including cages, kennels, and communal living spaces. This helps maintain a healthy and hygienic environment.

Health Monitoring:

Observe and monitor the health and behavior of animals, reporting any signs of illness or distress to the appropriate personnel.

Medication Administration:

Administer medications to animals as prescribed by veterinarians and keep accurate records of medications given.

Exercise and Enrichment:

Provide animals with opportunities for exercise, play, and mental stimulation to promote their well-being.

Adoption Process Assistance:

Assist potential adopters by providing information about available animals, facilitating meet-and-greets, and guiding them through the adoption process.

Cleaning and Organizing Supplies:

Ensure that cleaning supplies, food, bedding, and other necessities are well-stocked and organized.


Maintain accurate records of each animal, including medical histories, vaccinations, behavior assessments, and adoption details.

Customer Service:

Interact with visitors, answer phones, and respond to inquiries about adoptions, lost pets, and general information.

Collaboration with Volunteers:

Coordinate and work alongside volunteers, providing guidance and support in their assigned tasks.

Assisting with Veterinary Procedures:

Assist veterinarians and veterinary technicians with medical procedures, vaccinations, and other health-related tasks.

Community Outreach:

Participate in community outreach activities, such as educational programs, adoption events, and fundraisers.

Training and Enrichment Activities:

Participate in training sessions for animals and implement enrichment activities to improve their behavior and overall well-being.

Emergency Response:

Be prepared to respond to emergencies, including providing immediate care to sick or injured animals and assisting with evacuation procedures if necessary.

Administrative Tasks:

Handle administrative duties such as updating databases, filing paperwork, and preparing reports.

It’s important to note that the tasks listed can vary, and an Animal Shelter Assistant may wear many hats depending on the needs of the shelter on any given day. Flexibility, compassion, and a love for animals are key qualities for individuals in this role.

With what kind of tools and technology (if any) does an Animal Shelter Assistant work?

Animal Shelter Assistants utilise a variety of tools and technologies to carry out their duties efficiently and ensure the well-being of the animals under their care. While the extent of technology usage may vary depending on the size and resources of the shelter, here are some common tools and technologies used by animal shelter assistants:

Cleaning and Maintenance Equipment:

  • Brooms, mops, buckets, and cleaning solutions for maintaining cleanliness in animal enclosures and common areas.
  • Vacuum cleaners for cleaning floors and removing pet hair.
  • Pressure washers for deep cleaning outdoor areas and kennels.

Animal Handling Tools:

  • Leashes, collars, and harnesses for safely restraining and handling dogs.
  • Cat carriers and handling gloves for safely transporting and handling cats.
  • Animal control poles or catch poles for capturing stray or feral animals safely.

Feeding and Watering Equipment:

  • Food and water bowls or dispensers for providing meals and hydration to animals.
  • Automatic feeders and waterers for dispensing food and water at scheduled intervals.

Medical and Veterinary Equipment:

  • Basic first aid kits containing bandages, antiseptics, and wound care supplies.
  • Thermometers for monitoring animal temperatures.
  • Syringes and needles for administering medications or vaccinations (under veterinary supervision).

Identification and Record-Keeping Systems:

  • Collars, tags, and microchips for identifying animals and tracking their medical and behavioral history.
  • Animal management software or databases for maintaining records of animal intake, medical treatments, and adoption status.

Environmental Control Systems:

  • Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems for regulating temperature and air quality in animal housing areas.
  • Humidity monitors and dehumidifiers to maintain optimal environmental conditions.

Security and Surveillance Equipment:

  • Security cameras and monitoring systems to ensure the safety and security of animals and staff.
  • Access control systems to restrict unauthorized access to sensitive areas of the shelter.

Enrichment and Behavioral Management Tools:

  • Toys, puzzles, and enrichment devices to stimulate animals’ minds and prevent boredom.
  • Training clickers, treats, and positive reinforcement tools for behavioural training and socialisation.

Communication Devices:

  • Two-way radios or walkie-talkies for communication between staff members, especially in large shelters or outdoor areas.
  • Phones or intercom systems for communicating with visitors, volunteers, and veterinarians.

Transportation Vehicles:

  • Animal transport vehicles or vans for safely transporting animals to and from the shelter, veterinary appointments, or adoption events.

Educational Resources:

  • Computers, tablets, or educational materials for staff training, public education programs, and volunteer orientations.

While many tasks in animal shelters still rely on manual labor and traditional tools, the integration of technology such as animal management software and surveillance systems has become increasingly common to streamline operations and improve animal care standards.

The work environment of an Animal Shelter Assistant

Work environment and places where an animal shelter assistant can be employed

The work environment for an animal shelter assistant can vary, but it typically involves a combination of indoor and outdoor settings. Here’s an overview:

Indoor Environment:

  • Animal Housing Areas: This includes rooms or areas where animals are housed in cages, kennels, or communal living spaces. These areas are indoors and require regular cleaning, feeding, and monitoring.
  • Office Spaces: Animal Shelter Assistants may spend time in office spaces to handle administrative tasks, such as record-keeping, answering phones, and responding to inquiries from the public.
  • Meeting and Education Rooms: Some shelters have dedicated spaces for meetings, educational programmes, and adoption counselling.

Outdoor Environment:

  • Exercise Yards: Many shelters have outdoor spaces designated for exercise, play, and enrichment activities for animals. Animal shelter assistants may spend time in these areas supervising and engaging with the animals.
  • Adoption Events: Outdoor adoption events or fundraisers may take place in various locations, requiring Animal Shelter Assistants to work outdoors during such activities.
  • Loading/Unloading Areas: Assistants may need to work in areas where animals are brought in or transported out. This could involve loading and unloading animals from vehicles.

Places of Employment –

​They are employed by government run shelters, kennels or pounds.

  • Animal Shelters: Animal Shelter Assistants are commonly employed by animal shelters dedicated to the care and rehoming of animals.
  • Government Sponsored Humane Societies: These organisations focus on the well-being of animals, including sheltering, adoption, and advocacy.
  • Municipal Animal Control: Some animal shelters operate under or in conjunction with municipal or county animal control departments.

Average annual salary for an animal shelter assistant

Please note that salary information can vary significantly based on factors such as experience, location within the country, and specific shelter policies. Here’s a rough overview:

Country-Specific Information:

USA: The average salary for an animal shelter assistant in the USA can range from $25,000 to $35,000 per year, but this can vary based on location and experience.

Canada: In Canada, the average annual salary for an animal shelter assistant may range from $30,000 to $40,000 or more, depending on factors such as location and experience.

UK: Salaries for animal shelter assistants in the UK may range from £15,000 to £25,000 per year or more, with variations based on factors like location and experience.

India: Salaries for animal shelter assistants in India can vary widely, with average annual earnings ranging from INR 2,00,000 to INR 5,00,000 or more.

Australia: In Australia, the average salary for an animal shelter assistant may range from AUD 45,000 to AUD 60,000 per year, depending on factors such as location and experience.

New Zealand: Salaries for animal shelter assistants in New Zealand can vary, with average earnings ranging from NZD 40,000 to NZD 50,000 or more per year.

Nigeria: Salary levels for animal shelter assistants in Nigeria can vary significantly, and specific data may not be readily available. It’s advisable to check local sources for more accurate information.

Kenya: Similar to Nigeria, salary information for Kenya can vary. Local sources or organizations may provide more specific data on salaries for animal shelter assistants.

South Africa: Salaries for animal shelter assistants in South Africa may range from ZAR 80,000 to ZAR 150,000 or more per year, depending on factors such as location and experience.

Region-Specific Information:

South America: Salaries for animal shelter assistants in South America can vary by country and city. Local economic conditions and the specific organisation will influence salary levels.

Europe: Salaries in European countries will vary widely. In Western European countries, salaries may be higher than in Eastern European countries. Factors such as the cost of living and demand for animal care professionals can influence salaries.

Southeast Asia: Salaries for animal shelter assistants in Southeast Asia can vary based on the country and local economic conditions. It’s advisable to check specific sources for accurate and up-to-date information.

For the most accurate and recent salary information, consider consulting local job boards, government labour departments, or salary surveys specific to the animal care industry in each country or region.

Can an Animal Shelter Assistant be promoted?

Promotion opportunities for a government-employed Animal Shelter Assistant can vary depending on the organizational structure of the government agency overseeing the animal shelter and its policies. In government settings, job classifications, titles, and promotion structures are often defined by civil service rules or regulations. Here are general levels of promotion that an Animal Shelter Assistant might experience in a government setting:

Animal Shelter Assistant (Entry Level)

This is the starting position for individuals in the role. At this level, employees typically handle basic tasks related to the care and well-being of animals in the shelter.

Senior Animal Shelter Assistant or Lead Animal Care Technician

This level may involve more responsibilities, including supervising and coordinating the work of other Animal Shelter Assistants, overseeing daily operations, and ensuring proper care standards are met.

Animal Shelter Supervisor or Manager

With experience and demonstrated leadership skills, an employee may be promoted to a supervisory or managerial role. This position involves overseeing the entire animal shelter operation, managing staff, and collaborating with other departments.

Departmental Leadership or Administrative Roles

With significant experience and a track record of success, there may be opportunities for animal shelter assistants to move into higher-level administrative or leadership roles within the government agency overseeing animal services.

What difficulties do Animal Shelter Assistant face?

Government animal shelter assistants may encounter a variety of challenges in their profession, and these challenges can span different aspects of their work. Here are some potential challenges:

Physical Demands:

Lifting and Handling: Animal shelter assistants may need to lift heavy bags of food, handle crates, and assist with the movement of larger animals, which can be physically demanding.
Cleaning and Maintenance: Regular cleaning and maintenance of animal enclosures can involve repetitive tasks and exposure to cleaning agents.

Safety Concerns:

Animal Handling: Handling animals, especially those with unknown temperaments or medical issues, can pose safety risks. Animal shelter assistants need to be trained in proper handling techniques.
Zoonotic Diseases: There is a risk of exposure to zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans), so adhering to safety protocols and hygiene practices is crucial.

Variability in Working Conditions:

Weather Conditions: Outdoor work, such as cleaning outdoor enclosures or participating in adoption events, may be affected by weather conditions.
Workload Variability: Workloads can vary, with busy periods during animal intake surges or emergencies.

Emotional Challenges:

Euthanasia and Loss: Dealing with euthanasia decisions and the loss of animals can be emotionally taxing. Animal shelter assistants may form strong bonds with the animals they care for.
Animal Abuse or Neglect Cases: Witnessing cases of animal abuse or neglect can be emotionally challenging.

Business Management:

Resource Constraints: Animal shelters often operate with limited resources, which can affect the availability of supplies, staffing, and funding for programs.
Public Perception: Balancing public expectations and limited resources can be challenging, especially when dealing with community concerns or criticism.

Regulatory Compliance:

Adherence to Regulations: Compliance with local, state, and federal regulations related to animal welfare, licencing, and health standards is crucial. Keeping up with changing regulations can be challenging.

Continuing Education:

Professional Development: Staying updated on best practises in animal care, behaviour, and shelter management requires ongoing education. Access to training opportunities may vary.

Unpredictable Work Hours:

Emergency Response: Animal shelter assistants may be required to respond to emergencies, such as natural disasters or large-scale rescues, which can lead to unpredictable work hours.

Public Interaction:

Dealing with the Public: Interacting with the public, including potential adopters and individuals surrendering animals, can be challenging, especially in emotionally charged situations.

Limited Control Over Policies:

Policy Implementation: Animal shelter assistants may have limited control over organisational policies and decisions, which can affect their ability to enact changes or improvements.

Navigating these challenges requires resilience, effective communication, and a commitment to the well-being of animals. It’s essential for government animal shelter assistants to receive proper training, support, and resources to address these challenges effectively.

Future growth and possibilities in this Career

The prospects of future growth in this industry is good. Unfortunately, as more and more people buy pets, the amount left or found at shelters keeps on rising.

Here are some insights into potential future possibilities and trends in the field of animal shelter work:

Increased Focus on Animal Welfare:

There has been a growing awareness and emphasis on animal welfare in many societies. This could lead to increased demand for skilled professionals, including government animal shelter assistants, to care for and manage animals in need.

Advancements in Animal Care:

With advancements in veterinary medicine and animal care practises, there may be an increased need for trained professionals who can implement these practises in government animal shelters.

Technological Integration:

The integration of technology, such as electronic health records, animal tracking systems, and online adoption platforms, may enhance the efficiency of animal shelters and create new opportunities for skilled professionals.

Community Engagement and Education:

Government animal shelters may increasingly focus on community engagement and education programs to promote responsible pet ownership, reduce animal surrenders, and encourage adoption. This could lead to new roles in outreach and education.

Legislative Changes:

Changes in legislation related to animal welfare and the operation of animal shelters may influence the demand for professionals who can navigate and implement these regulatory changes.

Collaboration with Nonprofit Organizations:

Collaboration between government animal shelters and nonprofit organizations may increase, leading to new initiatives, funding sources, and collaborative efforts to address animal welfare issues.

Specialized Roles:

As the understanding of animal behavior and enrichment practices evolves, there may be a demand for individuals with specialized skills in areas such as animal behavior, rehabilitation, and training.

Increased Funding Opportunities:

Public and private funding for animal welfare initiatives may increase, providing resources for government animal shelters to enhance their facilities, services, and staff training.

It’s important to note that the growth and possibilities in this field can vary based on geographical location, government policies, and local community dynamics. Professionals in this field should stay informed about industry trends, participate in relevant training and education, and be adaptable to changes in the field of animal welfare. For the most accurate and current information, it’s advisable to consult industry reports, government agencies, and relevant professional organizations.

Availability of Jobs


Which Skills does an Animal Shelter Assistant need?

The skills required for a career as an animal shelter assistant can be divided into two very important groups. The first is the group containing life skills and personality traits, which are the core skills that are necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. The second group is career skills, or the specific skills required to allow a person to enter and operate effectively within a specific career. Some or maybe even all of the life skills can assist in strengthening the career skills, and they might even be the same for specific careers.

Life Skills and Personality Traits

Animal shelter assistants play a crucial role in caring for animals in shelters and helping them find new homes. Here are some specific personality traits commonly found in successful animal shelter assistants:

Compassion and Empathy:

Animal shelter assistants must genuinely care about the well-being of the animals in their care. Compassion and empathy drive their efforts to provide comfort, companionship, and support to animals who may be frightened, abandoned, or in need of medical attention.


Working in an animal shelter can be challenging, as assistants may encounter animals with various behavioural issues or medical conditions. Patience is essential when interacting with animals that may be scared, aggressive, or require extra time and attention.


Animal shelter assistants may witness difficult situations, such as animals being surrendered or experiencing health issues. Resilience enables them to cope with emotional challenges and continue providing care and support to the animals despite the difficulties they may face.


Shelters often have limited resources and may experience fluctuating numbers of animals coming in and out. Animal shelter assistants must be adaptable and able to handle changes in workload, procedures, and priorities as needed.

Attention to Detail:

Animal shelter assistants are responsible for monitoring the health and behaviour of the animals in their care. Attention to detail is crucial for noticing any signs of illness, injury, or distress and ensuring that animals receive timely medical attention and intervention.

Communication Skills:

Effective communication is essential for coordinating with other shelter staff, volunteers, and potential adopters. Animal shelter assistants must be able to convey information clearly and professionally, both verbally and in writing.


Animal shelter assistants often work as part of a team to provide care for the animals and manage daily shelter operations. Collaboration and cooperation with colleagues and volunteers are essential for ensuring the well-being of the animals and maintaining a positive work environment.


Animal shelters can be busy and fast-paced environments, with multiple tasks and responsibilities to juggle. Organisation skills help shelter assistants prioritise tasks, manage their time efficiently, and maintain accurate records of animal care and adoption processes.


Animal shelter assistants are committed to the welfare of the animals in their care and dedicated to finding them loving, permanent homes. Their passion for animal welfare drives their efforts to provide the best possible care and support for every animal that comes through the shelter.

Successful animal shelter assistants possess a combination of compassion and empathy, patience, resilience, adaptability, attention to detail, communication skills, teamwork, organisation, and dedication, enabling them to make a positive difference in the lives of animals in need.

Life Skills

Career Skills

  • Basic animal handling and care techniques
  • Basic customer service skills
  • Good health and physical fitness
  • Basic computer literacy
Career Skills

Which Subjects must I have at School?

The subjects you choose at school are important as they lay the foundation for further studies at college or university. While still at school, it’s also important to learn more about the animals you will work with, as well as gain some experience.

OZT has a list of various tertiary institutions where you can study further, after school. Each of these institutions also have their own Group page on OZT where you will find the exact subjects they require of you to have passed in school. Keep these requirements in mind, and discuss it with your school, guidance counselor and parents to ensure that you are prepared!

What will I need to Study to become an Animal Shelter Assistant?

Minimum educational requirement

The minimum requirements for animal shelter careers is a high school diploma or an equivalent qualification.

Subject focus


If you do want to study further, then a diploma with a focus in the following subjects will be good:

  • Biology: Learn about the anatomy, physiology, and basic biological processes of animals.
  • Animal Science or Veterinary Science (if available): Gain knowledge in animal health, nutrition, and husbandry practises.
  • Chemistry: Understand basic principles to handle cleaning agents and sanitation procedures.
  • Mathematics: Develop basic math skills for tasks such as measuring food portions and medication dosages.
  • Communication Skills: Enhance written and verbal communication skills through English or communication courses.

Advanced Studies:

  • Associate’s Degree or Certificate in Animal Care or Veterinary Technology: Pursue an associate’s degree or a certificate program in animal care or veterinary technology for more in-depth knowledge and practical skills.
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science, Biology, or a Related Field: Consider pursuing a bachelor’s degree for advanced studies and broader career opportunities within the field.

Short Courses:

  • Basic First Aid and CPR for Animals: Take short courses in basic first aid and CPR for animals to handle emergency situations effectively.
  • Animal Behavior and Training: Explore short courses focusing on animal behaviour and training techniques, which can be beneficial in understanding and working with animals.
  • Shelter Management: Consider short courses or workshops in shelter management to gain insights into the administrative aspects of working in an animal shelter.
  • Zoonotic Disease Awareness: Enrol in courses that provide awareness about zoonotic diseases and ways to minimize health risks.

Subject duration

The duration of most diplomas are between 1 and 3 years full time. The duration of short courses differ, but can range from a few days to a few months.

FREE Career Path Plan

If this is your dream career that you want to pursue, then it’s important to plan the way forward.

Why is planning important?

​To ensure that you understand the requirements for your career, and that you are always prepared for the next step on the road towards your dream. A preparation path is like a road map to where you want to be.

Possible Paths:

Here is a comprehensive career preparation path for a high school student aspiring to pursue a government animal shelter assistant career:

1. Attend Career Guidance Sessions:

Attend career guidance sessions at school to explore various career options and learn about the skills and qualifications required for working in animal shelters.

2. Research All Possible Careers:

Conduct thorough research on careers related to animal welfare, with a focus on government animal shelter assistant roles. Understand the responsibilities, qualifications, and growth prospects.

3. Explore Educational Paths:

Investigate educational paths, including potential degrees or certifications related to animal care, veterinary science, or biology. Consider attending college or vocational training programmes.

4. Align High School Subjects with the Educational Path:

Choose high school subjects that align with the chosen educational path, such as biology, chemistry, mathematics, and communication courses, to build a strong foundation.

5. Obtain a High School Diploma or Equivalent:

Successfully complete high school or obtain an equivalent qualification, ensuring that the academic record reflects the desired career path.

6. Learn About Animals You Will Work With:

Learn about different animal species, their behaviour, health, and care requirements. Consider volunteering at local animal shelters or farms to gain hands-on experience.

7. Align the Post-School Path:

Decide whether to enter the workforce directly, pursue further education, or explore entrepreneurship. Consider options such as vocational training, college, or specialised certification programmes.

8. Gain Experience Through Volunteering, Internship, Mentorship, etc.:

Seek volunteer opportunities at local animal shelters, veterinary clinics, or wildlife rehabilitation centres. Explore internships and mentorship programmes to gain practical experience.

9. Pursue Extracurricular Activities:

Engage in extracurricular activities related to animals, such as joining a school animal club, participating in animal-related events, or taking part in community service projects.

10. Join Professional Associations:

Join professional associations related to animal welfare and shelter management. Attend events, workshops, and conferences to connect with professionals in the field.

11. Gain specialised Skills:

Acquire specialised skills such as animal behaviour assessment, basic veterinary care, and shelter management. Consider short courses or workshops to enhance skills.

12. Network with Professionals:

Network with professionals in the field by attending industry events, reaching out to local animal shelters, and connecting with professionals on social media platforms like LinkedIn.

13. Enter the Job Market, Finish Tertiary Studies, or Launch a Business:

Choose a career path based on your personal goals. Enter the job market by applying for government animal shelter assistant positions, continuing tertiary studies, or exploring entrepreneurship opportunities.

14. Stay Updated and Pursue Continuing Education:

Stay informed about industry trends, regulations, and best practices. Pursue continuing education through workshops, online courses, or advanced certifications to enhance professional knowledge.

This comprehensive preparation path ensures that the high school student gains a well-rounded education, practical experience, and networking opportunities to pursue a successful career as a government animal shelter assistant. It emphasises the importance of continuous learning and staying connected with professionals in the field.

Possible Combined Career Paths

It is possible to sometimes combine two or more related careers. This normally happens when you study and practice a specific main career, but the knowledge and experience gained also help you to have a paying hobby or secondary income career.

Possible Alternative(s):

Stepping Stone Career

A stepping-stone career refers to a job or position that serves as a transitional or intermediate step towards a long-term career goal. Individuals may take on a stepping-stone job as it requires minimum education or finances to enter, or to gain relevant experience and develop skills, or to make professional connections that will ultimately help them progress towards their desired career path.

These interim positions may not be the ultimate or dream job, but they provide valuable learning opportunities and contribute to the individual’s overall career development. Stepping-stone careers are often seen as a strategic approach to building a successful and fulfilling professional trajectory, allowing individuals to gradually move closer to their desired roles or industries.

A career as an Animal Shelter Assistant can serve as a valuable stepping stone, offering skills and experiences that may be transferable to various other professions. While the specific career trajectory can depend on an individual’s interests, education, and additional qualifications, here are several potential pathways:

Here are some stepping-stone paths:

Training and apprenticeship

On-the-job training and apprenticeships for animal shelter assistants vary depending on the specific policies and practises of the employing organisation. Here are general considerations for on-the-job training and apprenticeship requirements:

Orientation and Introduction:

New hires typically undergo an orientation process to familiarise themselves with the organization’s mission, policies, and procedures.

Basic Animal Care Training:

Training in basic animal care includes learning about feeding, grooming, cleaning, and maintaining animal enclosures.

Safety Protocols and Handling Techniques:

Comprehensive training on safety protocols, including proper handling techniques, is crucial. This may cover working with different types of animals, assessing behaviour, and minimising the risk of injury.

Administrative Procedures:

Understanding administrative procedures involves training on record-keeping, documentation, and communication within the organisation.

Health and disease prevention:

Training in health and disease prevention includes learning about common animal illnesses, recognising signs of illness, and implementing preventive measures.

Customer Service and Public Interaction:

For roles involving public interaction, training may cover effective customer service, adoption counselling, and educating the public on responsible pet ownership.

Euthanasia Procedures (if applicable):

In shelters where euthanasia is practised, specialised training on humane euthanasia procedures and the emotional aspects of the process may be provided.

Emergency Response and First Aid:

Training in emergency response and first aid, both for animals and humans, is crucial for handling unexpected situations.

Specialised Skills (if applicable):

Depending on the shelter’s focus, additional training may be provided for specialised skills such as animal behaviour assessment, enrichment activities, or rehabilitation.

Mentorship and Apprenticeships:

Some organisations may implement mentorship programmes or formal apprenticeships where new animal shelter assistants work closely with experienced staff to gain hands-on experience and guidance.

Continuing Education Opportunities:

Ongoing training and professional development opportunities may be provided to keep staff informed about industry best practices, new procedures, and advancements in animal care.

Certification Programmes (if applicable):

In some cases, animal shelter assistants may be encouraged or required to pursue certification programmes offered by relevant animal welfare organisations.

Evaluation and Feedback:

Regular evaluations and feedback sessions help assess the progress of new hires and provide opportunities for improvement.

Soft Skills Development:

Training programmes may include soft skills development, emphasising qualities such as empathy, communication, and teamwork.

It’s important for individuals entering an animal shelter assistant career to actively participate in training opportunities, ask questions, and seek feedback to enhance their skills. Additionally, complying with any licencing or certification requirements in the field is essential for career progression. The specific on-the-job training process will vary between organisations, so candidates should inquire about the training structure during the hiring process.

Join the Animal Shelter Assistants Group in the membership community to learn more and even interact with the educational institutions that will help you secure your dream career!

Average level of education of those entering the career:

High School Certificate 0%
Diploma or Short Courses 0%
Degree or Higher Studies 0%

Licenses, Certificate, Registration and Professional Associations

The specific requirements for licences, certificates, and registrations for becoming a government animal shelter assistant can vary by location and jurisdiction. It’s essential to check with the relevant authorities in the specific area where you intend to work. However, here are some general considerations:

Animal Welfare Certification:

Some regions or organisations may require or prefer certification in animal welfare or shelter management.

First Aid and CPR Certification:

Certification in basic first aid and CPR for animals may be required to handle emergency situations effectively.

Local Health Department Compliance:

Compliance with local health department regulations and standards is crucial. This may include adherence to sanitation and hygiene protocols to ensure the well-being of both animals and staff.

Zoonotic Disease Training:

Training in zoonotic disease prevention and control may be necessary to minimise the risk of diseases transmitted between animals and humans.

Animal Control Officer Certification (if applicable):

In some jurisdictions, individuals working in animal shelters may need to obtain certification as animal control officers, especially if the shelter is under the jurisdiction of an animal control department.

Euthanasia Training (if applicable):

If euthanasia is part of the responsibilities, training and certification in humane euthanasia methods may be required. Certification programs are often offered by recognized organizations.

Driver’s Licence:

A valid driver’s licence may be required, especially if the position involves transporting animals or participating in fieldwork.

Local Regulations and Licencing:

Be aware of any local regulations and licencing requirements for individuals working with animals. This could include permits or licences from municipal or county authorities.

Before pursuing a career as a government animal shelter assistant, it’s essential to research the specific requirements of the jurisdiction and organisation where you intend to work. Contacting local animal control offices, health departments, or relevant regulatory bodies can provide accurate and up-to-date information on licencing and certification requirements.

Professional Associations

There are several regional and international professional associations and societies related to animal welfare and shelter management. These organisations often provide resources, training opportunities, and networking platforms for individuals working in government animal shelters or similar roles. Here are some notable associations:

Regional Associations:

  1. National Animal Care & Control Association (NACA) – USA:
    • Website: NACA
    • NACA provides training, certification, and networking opportunities for professionals involved in animal control and care in the United States.
  2. Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS) – Canada:
    • Website: CFHS
    • CFHS represents humane societies and SPCAs in Canada, offering resources, training, and advocacy support.
  3. RSPCA – Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – UK:
    • Website: RSPCA
    • RSPCA is a leading animal welfare organization in the UK, providing resources, training, and support for professionals in the field.
  4. The Australasian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS) – Australia and New Zealand:
    • Website: AAWS
    • AAWS aims to improve animal welfare in Australia and New Zealand, offering resources and collaboration opportunities.
  5. South African Veterinary Association (SAVA) – South Africa:
    • Website: SAVA
    • SAVA represents veterinarians in South Africa and may provide resources relevant to animal welfare professionals.

International Associations:

  1. World Animal Protection:
    • Website: World Animal Protection
    • World Animal Protection is a global organization working to improve the welfare of animals worldwide. They provide resources and engage in advocacy efforts.
  2. International Society for Animal Rights (ISAR):
    • Website: ISAR
    • ISAR is an international organization advocating for animal rights, and they may offer resources relevant to professionals in animal welfare.
  3. World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE):
    • Website: OIE
    • OIE sets international standards for animal health and welfare. Their resources may be relevant for professionals working in government animal shelters.
  4. Humane Society International (HSI):
    • Website: HSI
    • HSI operates globally to promote animal protection. They may provide resources and support for professionals in various regions.
  5. International Companion Animal Management Coalition (ICAM):
    • Website: ICAM
    • ICAM focuses on promoting humane and effective companion animal population management worldwide. Their resources may be beneficial for those involved in animal shelters.

Before joining any association, it’s advisable to explore their offerings, membership benefits, and relevance to your specific interests and location. Additionally, regional and local animal welfare organizations may provide valuable support and networking opportunities for government animal shelter assistants.

Where can I study further to become an Animal Shelter Assistant?

All of the above information will help you understand more about the Career, including the fact that there are different paths to take to reach it. But if you are almost done with High School (Grades 11 or 12), you also need to start thinking about further studies, and WHERE you will study.

See the List of Universities, Colleges and Online Training Academies who offer courses towards animal care.

How do I start to prepare for this Career?

If you do decide on following this career, then OZT can assist you in figuring out a path to prepare, as well as help you to gain further knowledge about the career and the animals you will be working with. We do this by offering you FREE career development tools. There are almost a dozen free tools, but these are the three primary ones:


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But, if you are still uncertain about choosing this specific career, and even where to start, then have a look at our special series of WHAT NEXT courses (link below). They take you through all of the questions you might have on how to choose the right career, what to do while at and after school, and even how to start your own business.

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Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming an animal shelter assistant. 

Members of the Group and Platform have special access to:

  • Info on the best places where you can study (colleges, universities and online)
  • Expertly designed advice to prepare you for the career, and links to places where you can gain valuable experience. For some career experience is necessary, otherwise you wont get the job!
  • Top notch info on each of the different species you will work with
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  • Compete and win points, badges, games, prizes and certificates. Be the best of the best, while you learn and prepare!

If you have decided on being an Animal Shelter Assistant, please click on the JOIN GROUP button. Members will be directed to the Group, while non-members will be assisted to register first.

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June 3, 2023 12:06 pm

OZT has been very helpful with their resources especially with their road map towards my studies. I’m extremely excited to use these resources when I do get to my internship stage . Thank you !

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