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How to become an animal handler in Australia: careers in animal care

Animal handlers, sometimes known as animal technicians, are responsible for the care, safety and comfort of animals in zoos and scientific research and breeding programs. They may work in zoos, veterinary clinics, laboratories, wildlife parks, stables or assisting researchers in the field. Working under the supervision of veterinarians, medical, pharmaceutical, agricultural or general scientists, animal technicians prepare food, groom animals, clean enclosures and monitor animal health.
Pathways

Being an animal handler: daily duties

Animal handlers work with animals in both indoor and outdoor settings and oversee their safety, dietary needs and exercise regimens. The daily duties will vary depending on the animals in their care and the setting they work in. They can be employed on television and film sets, in game reserves or in law enforcement, for example, and have different duties to an animal handler working in a zoo. However food preparation, basic medical care, exercise plans and mating and fertility programs are often a key part of an animal handler’s role.

Tasks:

  • Feeding and grooming
  • Basic health checks
  • Maintaining animal enclosures
  • Assisting animals to return to the wild
  • Observing reactions to tests
Skills

Being an animal handler: skills for success

Animal handlers do a lot of manual labour so need a good deal of physical fitness. They also need to be able to cope with animals that are distressed or ill. A genuine love of animals and desire to help them is also necessary. To work as an animal handler you can’t have allergies to animal hair, fur, feathers or dust. Patience, compassion and confidence wrangling different species and sizes of animals are also necessary.
Skills/attributes
  • Affinity with animals
  • Confidence with animals
  • Willingness to perform messy tasks
  • Team player
  • Good physical fitness
Specs

Specialised roles within animal care

Animal handlers can progress their careers in a variety of specialisations and can find work in a range of different contexts.
  • Dog Trainer
    Dog trainers can be involved in training assistance dogs, like guide dogs or therapy dogs. Or they can work in roles training dogs for law enforcement like police and customs dogs.
  • Pet Groomer
    Pet groomers maintain the appearance, hygiene and basic health of domestic animals like cats and dogs. Typically working in grooming salons, vet clinics, hotels and resorts or animal hospitals, some may also own their own businesses. They bathe animals, trim fur and claws, and look for problems like fleas, ear infections, tooth decay and skin issues.
  • Veterinary Nurse
    Working in veterinary clinics, zoos, hospitals or for animal welfare organisations, veterinary nurses assist veterinarians to treat and cared for injured and sick animals. They administer medication and injections, perform X-rays, send pathology samples to be tested, sterilise equipment and maintain a hygienic working environment.
Pathways

Educational pathways for animal handlers

A traineeship or qualification are needed to become an animal handler so you can demonstrate your knowledge. There are often minimum qualifications employers look for before employing someone.
  • Start your career
    Find entry-level animal handling courses to turn your passion for animals into a career.
  • Strengthen your skills
    Match your skills and commitment with a wide range of qualification options.
  • Build your resume
    Find options for professional development in the animal care industry that will challenge and excite you.
  • Industry requirements
    In Australia, animal handlers are required to gain industry accreditation. Find out more in the Resources section..
  • Finding Work
    Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your animal care career. Emphasise your personal strengths and achievements in your resume and target your cover letter to the job description listed.
  • Employment Prospects
    There has been a slight rise in employment n the animal care industry in recent years, with job prospects in this area predicted to remain steady over the next few years.

Resources for Animal handler

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