How to Become an Animal Shelter Attendant (Walkies, Woofs and Work)

how to become an animal shelter attendant

If you’ve ever felt a deep connection with animals or wondered what it takes to become an Animal Shelter Attendant, you’re in the right place.

In this guide, we’ll explore the EXACT steps you need to take to kick start your career as an Animal Shelter Attendant. We’ll talk about:

  • The skills you need.
  • The education and certifications that can help you get there.
  • How to secure a job in an animal shelter.

So, whether you’re a novice animal lover looking to make a career change or an experienced pet handler aiming to dedicate your skills to a shelter, stay tuned.

We’re about to reveal the roadmap to become an Animal Shelter Attendant.

Let’s get started!

Contents show

Steps to Become an Animal Shelter Attendant


Step 1: Research the Role and Responsibilities

Before choosing to become an Animal Shelter Attendant, it’s important to thoroughly research the role and its responsibilities.

Understand that this job requires more than just a love for animals – it involves caring for the physical, emotional, and medical needs of the animals, cleaning cages, providing food and water, and often working with distressed, abused, or aggressive animals.

The job may also require you to assist in administrative tasks, like record keeping, answering inquiries from the public, and assisting with adoptions.

It’s vital to be prepared for these responsibilities, as well as the emotional toll that can come from dealing with animals in distress or those that may not find homes.

Explore online resources, attend career fairs, or arrange informational interviews with animal shelter attendants to gain insight into the realities of the role.

Having a clear understanding of what the job entails will help you determine if this is the right career path for you.


Step 2: Acquire a High School Diploma or Equivalent

Acquiring a high school diploma or its equivalent is a fundamental step for anyone pursuing a career as an Animal Shelter Attendant.

This basic educational qualification is necessary for understanding the administrative part of this role, which includes record keeping, inventory management, and basic communication skills.

During your high school years, consider taking biology or animal science courses if available, as these can provide a fundamental understanding of animal behavior and physiology, which will be beneficial in your role as an Animal Shelter Attendant.

Volunteering at a local animal shelter or veterinary clinic during this time can provide practical experience and give you a sense of the responsibilities involved in the job.

Once you have obtained your high school diploma or equivalent, you may consider furthering your education in a related field, such as animal science, veterinary technology, or animal behavior.

However, many shelters provide on-the-job training and do not require post-secondary education.

As such, gaining practical experience is often more valued than formal education in this field.


Step 3: Gain Experience with Animals

As an aspiring animal shelter attendant, it is crucial for you to gain practical experience working with animals.

This could be done by volunteering at local animal shelters, veterinary clinics, or pet adoption centers.

These experiences will not only familiarize you with the daily routines and responsibilities of an animal shelter attendant but also give you the opportunity to handle different animals, understand their behaviors, needs and care requirements.

In addition to this, consider offering pet sitting or dog walking services.

This provides more one-on-one interaction and can help you understand the various temperaments and needs of different animals.

Taking part in animal rescue operations or fostering animals at your home can also provide valuable experience.

Animal behavior courses, either online or at a local community college, could also be beneficial.

Remember, employers prefer candidates with hands-on experience.

The more you immerse yourself in activities involving animal care, the better equipped you will be for a role as an Animal Shelter Attendant.

Be sure to document all your experience as it will be valuable when applying for jobs.


Step 4: Volunteer at Animal Shelters or Rescues

Gaining hands-on experience by volunteering at an animal shelter or rescue center is an essential step in pursuing a career as an animal shelter attendant.

This will provide you with first-hand experience in handling and caring for animals of different species and temperaments, from dogs and cats to rabbits and reptiles.

You will learn about the daily operations of animal shelters, including feeding, grooming, and exercising the animals, as well as cleaning and maintaining their living areas.

Volunteering also allows you to witness the challenges and rewards of working in an animal shelter, helping you gauge your interest and suitability for the role.

You will gain exposure to veterinary practices, behavioral issues, and learn how to interact with animals who may have experienced trauma or neglect.

During this period, you can build relationships with professionals in the field, potentially leading to job opportunities.

Furthermore, you would also be contributing to a meaningful cause and making a positive impact on the lives of animals.

Remember that this step requires patience, compassion, and a genuine love for animals.

The experiences and lessons learned during this time will be invaluable as you continue your journey towards becoming an Animal Shelter Attendant.


Step 5: Learn Animal Behavior and Care Basics

As an animal shelter attendant, understanding animal behavior and care basics is crucial for your day-to-day duties.

This knowledge will allow you to manage animals’ needs, improve their well-being, and ensure their safety.

To learn about animal behavior and care, consider attending animal behavior and care workshops or seminars.

These can provide you with a fundamental understanding of animal health, behavior, and their basic needs.

You may learn about different animal species, their temperaments, dietary requirements, and other vital facts that will be necessary in your role.

Also, many online courses and certifications can help you develop the necessary skills.

A few topics worth exploring include animal nutrition, animal grooming, basic veterinary care, and animal behavioral psychology.

Working as a volunteer in animal shelters or veterinary clinics can also provide practical experience in understanding and addressing the needs of various animals.

Remember that each animal is unique and might require different care and handling methods.

Therefore, it’s essential to remain open-minded and flexible in your approach to animal care and behavior.

Your knowledge and understanding of animals will play a vital role in providing a better life for the animals at the shelter.


Step 6: Obtain Relevant Certifications

Being an animal shelter attendant doesn’t require extensive education, but having relevant certifications can boost your credentials and make you more competitive in the job market.

Certifications related to animal care, animal behavior, or animal health can be particularly valuable.

For instance, you might consider becoming a Certified Animal Welfare Administrator, a certification offered by the Association of Animal Welfare Advancement.

This certification verifies your knowledge and skills in animal welfare and management.

Another certification to consider is the Animal Behavior College’s Dog Obedience Program, which provides a strong understanding of dog behavior and training techniques.

Certifications like these can demonstrate your commitment to animal welfare and your expertise in handling different animals.

In addition, having a certification in pet first aid and CPR can be extremely beneficial.

This certification ensures that you’re equipped to handle emergency situations, providing immediate care to animals until veterinary assistance is available.

Remember, each certification requires you to meet certain prerequisites and pass an exam.

Be sure to research each certification thoroughly to understand its requirements and benefits.


Step 7: Develop Strong Interpersonal Skills

As an Animal Shelter Attendant, your role will not only involve taking care of animals but also interacting with potential adopters, donors, volunteers and other staff members.

It’s important to develop strong interpersonal skills to communicate effectively with different individuals and establish positive relationships.

You will need to explain procedures, provide information on specific animals, and discuss responsible pet ownership to potential adopters.

You may also need to work with distraught pet owners who have lost their pet or are unable to care for them any longer.

Therefore, possessing empathy and patience is crucial.

Furthermore, you might be involved in conducting tours and educational programs where you would need to demonstrate public speaking skills.

You may also need to negotiate and resolve conflicts, which require problem-solving abilities and a calm demeanor.

Volunteering or working in customer-service roles can help develop and improve these interpersonal skills.

Remember, these skills are not only essential for your day-to-day duties but can also open opportunities for advancement into supervisory or management roles within an animal shelter.


Step 8: Familiarize Yourself with Animal Health and Safety Regulations

As an Animal Shelter Attendant, it is essential to be well-versed in animal health and safety regulations.

This includes understanding the basic health needs of various animals, recognizing signs of common diseases and illnesses, and knowing what to do in case of an animal emergency.

Stay updated on local and national animal welfare laws, as well as policies and procedures of your organization.

This may involve regular training and educational sessions.

Some shelters may require you to complete a course or certification in animal care or animal welfare law.

Additionally, it’s important to understand the guidelines for safely handling animals and minimizing stress during their stay at the shelter.

This can include knowing the proper way to lift and carry different species, how to use restraint devices when necessary, and how to interact with animals in a way that respects their boundaries and reduces fear or aggression.

Remember, your primary goal as an animal shelter attendant is to ensure the well-being and safety of the animals in your care, so staying informed about health and safety regulations is critical.


Step 9: Prepare a Resume Highlighting Relevant Experience

As an aspiring Animal Shelter Attendant, the importance of a well-structured and detailed resume cannot be overstated.

Your resume is your first impression, and it needs to show potential employers that you are suited for the role.

Relevant experience is key, and should be highlighted prominently.

If you have previous experience working with animals, such as in a pet shop, veterinary clinic, or even voluntary work at other animal shelters, these should be included in the professional experience section of your resume.

If you’ve completed courses or certifications related to animal care, include these in the education section of your resume.

Don’t forget to mention any first-aid training you’ve had, as this can be very beneficial in an animal care setting.

In the skills section of your resume, focus on those that are most relevant to the job.

These might include animal handling, knowledge of animal behavior, cleaning and maintenance skills, and customer service skills.

Remember to tailor your resume to the specific job you’re applying for.

If the job listing mentions certain skills or experiences, try to include these in your resume where possible.

This will show the employer that you’ve taken the time to understand what they’re looking for and that you’re a good fit for the role.

Finally, be sure to proofread your resume carefully before submitting it.

Spelling and grammar mistakes can create a poor impression.

You want your resume to reflect your attention to detail and professionalism.


Step 10: Apply for Animal Shelter Attendant Positions

After you’ve acquired the necessary education, gained hands-on experience with animals, and developed essential skills, it’s time to apply for animal shelter attendant positions.

Start by researching various animal shelters, animal rescue organizations, or humane societies in your area or in the location you wish to work.

Check out their job postings on their websites or on job search platforms.

Ensure you meet the qualifications outlined in the job description before applying.

Prepare a resume and cover letter that highlights your education, experiences, and skills related to animal care.

Include any certifications or licenses that you have obtained.

Demonstrate your passion for animal welfare and how your skills and experiences make you an excellent fit for the role.

After submitting your application, prepare for potential interviews.

You might face questions about your animal handling skills, knowledge about animal health and behavior, ability to handle difficult situations, and commitment to animal welfare.

Remember, each shelter may have different requirements or expectations for their attendants, so be sure to tailor your application and interview responses to the specific shelter and role.


Animal Shelter Attendant Roles and Responsibilities

Animal Shelter Attendants are responsible for the day-to-day operations of a shelter, providing care and assistance to animals in need.

They ensure that animals are treated humanely and work to prepare animals for adoption.

They have the following roles and responsibilities:


Animal Care

  • Feeding, bathing, and exercising the animals.
  • Administering medication as prescribed by the veterinarian.
  • Monitoring the health of the animals and reporting any health issues.


Cleaning and Maintenance

  • Cleaning kennels, cages, and animal care areas.
  • Maintaining a clean and hygienic environment for the animals.
  • Ensuring all equipment is in good working order.


Adoption Assistance

  • Helping potential adopters in choosing the right animal.
  • Processing adoption paperwork and maintaining records.
  • Providing information and advice on animal care to new owners.


Public Relations

  • Answering queries from the public about the shelter and its animals.
  • Conducting tours of the shelter.
  • Participating in community outreach programs to promote the shelter and animal adoption.


Animal Training

  • Working with animals to improve their behavior for better adoption prospects.
  • Training animals in basic commands and good behavior.


Record Keeping

  • Maintaining records of animal intake, adoption, health, and behavior.
  • Updating databases with animal details and status.


Veterinary Assistance

  • Assisting with veterinary procedures when required.
  • Transporting animals to and from veterinary clinics.


Staff Coordination

  • Coordinating with other staff to ensure all tasks are completed.
  • Working with volunteers and providing them with necessary training and support.


Emotional Support

  • Providing comfort and reassurance to distressed or anxious animals.
  • Offering emotional support to owners surrendering pets.


Continuous Learning

  • Keeping up-to-date with the latest animal care techniques and practices.
  • Attending training programs and workshops.


What Does an Animal Shelter Attendant Do?

Animal Shelter Attendants work in facilities that provide temporary homes for stray, lost, abandoned, or surrendered animals.

They are responsible for the daily care of the animals at the shelter, which includes feeding, bathing, and providing any necessary medical treatment.

They monitor the animals’ health and behavior, noting any changes and reporting them to the veterinarian or shelter manager.

These attendants may also assist in the adoption process by providing information to potential adopters about specific animals and their needs.

They often play a role in determining the suitability of an adopter to ensure that the animal is placed in a safe, loving, and appropriate home.

In addition to their hands-on work with the animals, attendants may also be responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of the shelter and individual animal cages, as well as managing inventory of food, toys, and other supplies.

They may also conduct public tours of the shelter and speak at public events to promote the shelter’s mission and encourage adoption or volunteering.

Above all, Animal Shelter Attendants must have a passion for animals and a commitment to animal welfare.

Their work can be physically and emotionally demanding, but it is also deeply rewarding.


Essential Animal Shelter Attendant Skills

  • Animal Care: Shelter attendants must have a deep understanding of and compassion for animals. They should be capable of feeding, grooming, and taking care of animals’ basic needs and well-being.
  • Communication: Attendants need to communicate effectively with shelter staff, volunteers, and potential adopters. They need to provide clear information about the animals and their needs.
  • Physical Stamina: The role often requires physical activity, including lifting heavy supplies, cleaning cages, and managing animals of various sizes. Physical fitness and stamina are necessary.
  • Problem-solving: Attendants should be able to identify and address problems, whether they relate to an animal’s health or issues within the shelter environment. They must be quick thinkers and efficient problem solvers.
  • Animal Behavior Knowledge: Understanding animal behavior is crucial to manage, train, and socialize animals effectively. This skill also helps in identifying any unusual behavior indicating stress or illness.
  • Patience: Working with animals requires a lot of patience as they may take time to adjust to new environments or routines.
  • Administrative Skills: Shelter attendants often need to keep records of animals, track their health and vaccination statuses, and manage adoption paperwork. Basic administrative skills are necessary.
  • Medical Knowledge: Basic knowledge of animal health and first-aid can be essential. Attendants need to recognize signs of illness or injury and provide basic care or escalate to a veterinarian when necessary.
  • Customer Service: Attendants often interact with the public, potential adopters, or donors. Good customer service skills can help create a positive image for the shelter and aid in adoption efforts.
  • Teamwork: Shelter attendants often work as part of a team. They must be capable of collaborating with others, sharing tasks, and working towards the common goal of animal care and adoption.
  • Resilience: Working in an animal shelter can be emotionally challenging. Attendants need emotional resilience to deal with situations like animal illness, death, or failed adoptions.
  • Time Management: Attendants must balance various tasks efficiently, including caring for animals, cleaning facilities, and interacting with visitors. Good time management skills are essential.


Animal Shelter Attendant Career Path Progression

The Foundation: Animal Shelter Volunteer

Most careers in animal sheltering start with volunteering.

You get to learn the basics and acquire firsthand experience in animal care.

As a volunteer, you may be tasked with feeding animals, cleaning kennels, and assisting with basic administrative duties.

Here are some tips for succeeding in this role:

  1. Patience and Love for Animals: Be patient, as you will be dealing with animals of various temperaments. Show love and care to all animals.
  2. Communication Skills: Learn to communicate well with both animals and humans, as you’ll interact with both regularly.
  3. Adaptability: Each day can be different, so be prepared to adapt to changing situations and tasks.


The Ascent: Animal Shelter Attendant

With experience and training, you can progress to the role of an Animal Shelter Attendant.

At this level, you are responsible for the day-to-day care of animals, basic medical care, and keeping records.

Here’s how to excel:

  1. Animal Care Knowledge: Gain deeper knowledge about different breeds, their behavior, and care requirements.
  2. Detail-oriented: Be meticulous in maintaining records and providing medications if required.
  3. Teamwork: Work well with the team to ensure smooth operations at the shelter.


Reaching New Heights: Animal Shelter Supervisor

With more experience and proven competencies, you can become an Animal Shelter Supervisor.

In this role, you’ll oversee daily operations, manage staff, and deal with more complex animal care issues.

To thrive, focus on:

  1. Leadership: Develop your leadership skills to manage the team effectively.
  2. Problem-Solving: Handle difficult situations or unexpected issues with grace and tact.
  3. Collaboration: Work with local community, donors, and other stakeholders for the betterment of the shelter.


Beyond the Horizon: Animal Shelter Manager

With significant experience and possibly further education in animal sciences or management, you can move into the role of Animal Shelter Manager.

This role requires strategic thinking, fundraising ability, and community outreach.

Here’s what to focus on:

  1. Strategic Planning: Develop and implement strategies to improve the shelter’s operations.
  2. Fundraising: Build relationships with donors and execute successful fundraising campaigns.
  3. Community Outreach: Promote the shelter in the local community and beyond to increase adoptions and volunteer participation.


Pinnacle of Success: Animal Shelter Director

At the top of the ladder, you might become an Animal Shelter Director.

In this role, you’re responsible for the overall running of the shelter, including budgeting, strategic planning, and liaising with the governing board.

This position requires excellent leadership, vision, and commitment to animal welfare.


Animal Shelter Attendant Salary

Entry-Level Animal Shelter Attendant

  • Median Salary: $20,000 – $25,000 per year
  • Entry-level animal shelter attendants typically have 0-2 years of experience and may have completed a high school diploma or have relevant animal care education or training.


Mid-Level Animal Shelter Attendant

  • Median Salary: $25,000 – $30,000 per year
  • Mid-level animal shelter attendants have 2-5 years of experience and often take on more complex responsibilities including administering medication and assisting with veterinary procedures.


Senior Animal Shelter Attendant

  • Median Salary: $30,000 – $35,000 per year
  • Senior animal shelter attendants possess 5+ years of experience and are responsible for leading teams, making procedural decisions, and mentoring junior staff.


Animal Shelter Manager

  • Median Salary: $35,000 – $45,000+ per year
  • This role requires significant experience and often involves administrative duties, staff management, and decision-making regarding animal care and shelter policies.


Animal Shelter Director

  • Median Salary: $45,000 – $60,000+ per year
  • This high-level position requires extensive experience and a deep understanding of animal care and shelter management. Responsibilities often involve setting strategic goals for the shelter and managing community relations.


Animal Shelter Attendant Work Environment

Animal Shelter Attendants primarily work in animal shelters, humane societies, and animal rescue centers.

Their workplace can be both indoors and outdoors depending on the shelter layout and the animals’ needs.

The work environment can be physically demanding and emotionally challenging, as attendants often deal with animals that are abandoned, lost, or have suffered abuse.

They may also be required to handle animals of various sizes, from small kittens to large dogs.

This role often includes duties such as feeding and cleaning the animals, as well as maintaining their living spaces, which can be physically taxing.

Animal Shelter Attendants often work on a shift basis and their schedules may include weekends, evenings, and holidays depending on the shelter’s operating hours.

Despite the challenges, many find the role rewarding due to the direct impact they have on improving the lives of animals.

Some attendants may eventually choose to advance their career in animal care, becoming shelter managers, veterinary technicians, or animal behaviorists.


FAQs About Becoming an Animal Shelter Attendant

What is needed to become an Animal Shelter Attendant?

To become an Animal Shelter Attendant, you need to have a high school diploma or equivalent, although some positions may require a degree in animal science or a related field.

Prior experience working with animals can be beneficial.

Key skills include animal handling, knowledge of animal behavior, first aid, and customer service.

Additionally, you should have a love for animals, patience, physical stamina, and the ability to deal with emotionally difficult situations.


How long does it take to be an Animal Shelter Attendant?

The time it takes to become an Animal Shelter Attendant can vary depending on your experience level.

If you have prior experience working with animals, you might be able to enter the field immediately.

If not, you might need to spend some time volunteering or working in entry-level positions to gain the necessary experience.

This could take anywhere from a few months to a few years.


Can I be an Animal Shelter Attendant without a degree?

Yes, it is possible to become an Animal Shelter Attendant without a degree.

Many animal shelters prioritize experience working with animals over formal education.

Volunteering at an animal shelter, pet-sitting, or working at a veterinary clinic can all provide valuable experience.

However, having a degree in animal science or a related field may provide a competitive edge and open up more opportunities.


Is being an Animal Shelter Attendant a stressful job?

Being an Animal Shelter Attendant can be stressful at times, as it often involves dealing with animals that are sick, injured, or distressed, as well as potential adopters who may be challenging to deal with.

However, the job can also be incredibly rewarding, especially when you are able to help an animal find a loving forever home.


What are the prospects for Animal Shelter Attendants in the next decade?

The prospects for Animal Shelter Attendants are steady in the next decade.

While there is a steady demand for workers in animal shelters, the turnover rate is also high due to the emotionally and physically demanding nature of the job.

Opportunities may also arise in related fields such as veterinary care, animal control, and animal welfare advocacy.



Here we are.

The road to becoming an animal shelter attendant may be filled with challenges, but the rewards are immense.

Equipped with the right skills, education, and a deep passion for animals, you’re set to make a significant difference in the lives of many creatures.

Remember, the path may be demanding, but the rewards are boundless. Your efforts could result in providing animals with a loving home, a second chance at life, and improve the overall awareness and empathy towards animal welfare.

So, take that initial stride. Immerse yourself in knowledge. Network with other animal care professionals. And most importantly, never stop caring for animals.

Because the animal world is waiting for what you can offer.

And if you’re seeking personalized guidance on starting or advancing your career as an animal shelter attendant, explore our AI Career Path Advisor.

This complimentary tool is crafted to provide customized advice and resources to help you effectively navigate your career path.

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