California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Nonfarm Animal Caretakers in San Diego County

May also be called: Animal Attendants; Animal Caretakers; Dog Daycare Workers; Groomers; Kennel Workers; Pet Sitters; Stable Attendants; Zoo Attendants

Specialties within this occupation include: Aquarists; Circus Animal Caretakers

What Would I Do?

Many people love animals. However, taking care of them is often hard work. As more pet owners consider their pets part of the family, they are increasingly willing to spend money on their pets. This increases the demand for services provided by Animal Caretakers.

Job titles and duties for Animal Caretakers vary by employment setting:

Kennel Workers care for pets at animal care facilities. They perform basic tasks such as cleaning cages and dog runs, filling food and water dishes, and exercising animals. They also play with the animals, provide companionship, and observe behavioral changes that could indicate illness or injury. Kennel Workers may sell pet food and supplies, assist in obedience training, and help with breeding.

Pet Sitters provide in-home care while their owners are working or traveling. They may feed, water, walk or provide companionship to pets. Other duties may include transporting pets to appointments or play dates.

Groomers specialize in grooming or maintaining a pet's appearance. Most groom dogs and cats. They begin by cleaning and maintaining their equipment to prevent the spread of disease. Grooming the pet involves several steps including an initial brush-out that may be followed by a first clipping of hair or fur. The Groomer then cuts the nails, cleans the ears, bathes and dries the animal, and ends with a final clipping and styling. They are often the first to notice a medical problem, such as an ear or skin infection that requires veterinary care.

Animal Shelter Caretakers perform a variety of duties and work with a wide variety of animals. In addition to tending to the basic needs of the animals, they must keep records of the animals received and discharged and any tests or treatments done. Caretakers may euthanize (painlessly put to death) seriously ill, severely injured, or unwanted animals. They also interact with the public by showing animals to potential owners and answering questions.

Stable Attendants care for horses in stables. They saddle and unsaddle horses, give rubdowns, and walk to cool them off after a ride. Attendants also feed, groom, and exercise the horses; clean out stalls and replenish bedding; polish saddles; clean and organize the tack (harness, saddle, and bridle) room; and store supplies and feed.

Zoo Attendants prepare food and clean enclosures of animals. They sometimes assist in raising very young animals. They watch for any signs of illness or injury, monitor eating patterns or any changes in behavior, and record their observations. Keepers may also answer questions and ensure that the visiting public behaves responsibly. Depending on the zoo, Keepers may be assigned to work with a broad group of animals such as mammals, birds, reptiles, or they may work with a limited collection of animals such as primates, large cats, or small mammals.

Tools Animal Caretakers use include: electric clippers, brushes, combs, blow-dryers, grooming shears, nail clippers, leashes, shovels, and brooms.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Feed and water animals according to schedules and feeding instructions.Customer and Personal Service
Clean, organize, and disinfect animal quarters such as pens, stables, cages, and yards, and animal equipment such as saddles and bridles.Static Strength
Answer telephones and schedule appointments.Active Listening
Examine and observe animals to detect signs of illness, disease, or injury.Problem Sensitivity
Respond to questions from patrons, and provide information about animals, such as behavior, habitat, breeding habits, or facility activities.Oral Expression
Provide treatment to sick or injured animals, or contact veterinarians to secure treatment.Judgment and Decision Making
Collect and record animal information such as weight, size, physical condition, treatments received, medications given, and food intake.Information Ordering
Exercise animals to maintain their physical and mental health.Coordination
Perform animal grooming duties such as washing, brushing, clipping, and trimming coats, cutting nails, and cleaning ears.Arm-Hand Steadiness
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Animal Caretakers generally work in boarding kennels, pet stores, animal shelters, and veterinary hospitals and clinics as well as stables, zoological parks, aquariums, and natural aquatic habitats. Caretakers may work outdoors in all weather conditions. The work setting can be noisy and may smell unpleasant. Animal Caretakers often work irregular shifts as well as nights, weekends, and holidays. Some animal hospitals, research facilities, and animal shelters require someone on duty 24 hours-a-day.

The job can be physically demanding and sometimes dangerous if proper safety precautions are not followed. Animal Caretakers may have to lift, hold, or restrain animals, risking exposure to bites or scratches. They must take precautions when treating animals with germicides or insecticides. Their work may also involve kneeling, crawling, repeated bending, or lifting heavy supplies like bales of hay or bags of feed.

The job can also be emotionally demanding. For example, Animal Caretakers who witness abused animals or who assist in euthanizing unwanted, aged, or injured animals may experience emotional distress. Those working for private humane societies and municipal animal shelters often deal with distressed customers and must maintain a calm and professional demeanor while helping to enforce the laws regarding animal care.

There has been little or no unionization of Animal Caretakers. However, they may belong to professional organizations such as The National Dog Groomers Association of America, The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, and the Pet Care Services Association.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Animal Caretaker may appeal to those who enjoy working with animals and performing activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. Many of these occupations require working outside and typically do not involve a lot of paperwork.

Animal Caretakers need patience, sensitivity, and problem-solving abilities. Those who work in shelters also need tact and communication skills, because they often deal with individuals who surrender or have lost their pets. The ability to calm distressed people is vital for workers at shelters.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Some Animal Caretakers, especially those who provide grooming, sitting, and walking services, may receive tips in addition to their wages.

Wages

The median wage in 2016 for Nonfarm Animal Caretakers in California is $23,933 annually, or $11.50 hourly. The median wage for Nonfarm Animal Caretakers in San Diego County is $25,167 annually, or $12.09 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2016Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$20,344$23,933$32,489
San Diego County$21,751$25,167$38,526
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Benefits generally include medical, dental, life, and vision insurance as well as vacation, sick leave, and retirement plans. Those who are self-employed are responsible for their own benefits.

What Do Local Employers Say About Benefits?  Of the 18 employers in San Diego County, many provide medical insurance and vacation and dental insurance, and some provide sick leave, life insurance, vision insurance, no benefits, and retirement plan benefits to Nonfarm Animal Caretakers who work full-time.

Percent of Employers Who Provide
Specific Benefits by Time Base
Benefit TypeFull-TimePart-Time
Medical Insurance50%0%
Vacation44%0%
Dental Insurance44%0%
Sick Leave39%6%
Life Insurance33%6%
Vision Insurance33%0%
No benefits33%72%
Retirement Plan22%0%
Disability Insurance11%6%
Paid Time Off Bank6%0%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

Of the 9 employers surveyed who responded in San Diego County, who provides medical benefits, most reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for full-time, and none reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for part-time Nonfarm Animal Caretakers.

Percent of Employers Who Paid Medical
Insurance by Portion Paid by Time Base
Portion Paid by Employer:Full-TimePart-Time
All33%0%
Half or more44%0%
Less than Half22%0%
None0%0%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

What is the Job Outlook?

The companion pet population, which drives employment of Animal Caretakers, is expected to increase. Employment growth and the need to replace workers leaving the field will create additional job openings. As more pet owners consider their pets part of the family, demand for animal services and the willingness to spend greater amounts of money on their pets should increase. Mobile pet services are growing rapidly as they offer convenience for pet owners, flexible schedules for groomers, and minimal trauma for pets resulting from being in unfamiliar surroundings.

Demand for Animal Caretakers in animal shelters is expected to grow, especially for shelters that work hand-in-hand with social service agencies and law enforcement teams. Caretakers in zoos and aquariums may face keen competition as the number of applicants greatly exceeds the number of available positions.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Nonfarm Animal Caretakers is expected to grow faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Nonfarm Animal Caretakers are expected to increase by 20.5 percent, or 4,100 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

In San Diego County, the number of Nonfarm Animal Caretakers is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Nonfarm Animal Caretakers are expected to increase by 29.4 percent, or 730 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Nonfarm Animal Caretakers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2012-2022)
20,00024,1004,10020.52,400
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
2,4803,21073029.4300
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 410 new job openings per year is expected for Nonfarm Animal Caretakers, plus an additional 240 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 650 job openings.

In San Diego County, an average of 74 new job openings per year is expected for Nonfarm Animal Caretakers, plus an additional 30 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 104 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Nonfarm Animal Caretakers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2012-2022)
410240650
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
7430104
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Most Animal Caretakers learn their work through on-the-job training. Pet groomers generally learn their trade through informal training, usually under the guidance of an experienced groomer. They may also attend a licensed grooming school and receive a certificate after two years. Animal Caretakers in kennels usually start by performing simple duties, such as cleaning cages or feeding animals. Some jobs require formal education.

Experience

Many employers prefer to hire candidates with previous paid or volunteer experience working with animals.

Early Career Planning

High school preparation courses in biology, chemistry, psychology, agriculture, and business are beneficial. Students are encouraged to volunteer, intern, or take a summer job in an animal care setting.

Work Study Programs

California may offer Regional Occupational Program (ROP) classes for students interested in Animal Caretaker occupations. One such class is Animal Care. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

Continuing education is not required. However; training programs and workshops are available through the Humane Society of the United States, the American Humane Association, and the National Animal Control Association.

Certification

Animal Caretakers may hold a Pet First Aid or Heartsaver First Aid certificate. The National Dog Groomers Association of America offers certification for master status as a groomer. To earn certification, applicants must demonstrate their practical skills and pass two exams. The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters offers a two-stage, home-study certification program for those who wish to become pet care professionals. The Pet Care Services Association (formerly known as ABKA or American Boarding Kennel Association) offers a three-stage, home-study program for individuals interested in pet care. Those who complete the third stage and pass oral and written examinations become Certified Kennel Operators. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

Nationally, over 25 percent of Animal Caretakers are self-employed. The largest industries employing Nonfarm Animal Caretakers are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Other Personal Services 30.4%
Other Miscellaneous Store Retailers 17.2%
Spectator Sports 6.3%
Social Advocacy Organizations 4.0%
Local Government 1.9%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

What Employers Say...

The Employment Development Department surveyed 18 employers in San Diego County which employ 334 Nonfarm Animal Caretakers. Here's what they had to say:

About Full-Time/Part-Time: Almost All of these firms employ full-time and almost all employ part-time Nonfarm Animal Caretakers.

About Work Experience:  Of the 18 employers surveyed in San Diego County, most require new hires to have prior work experience as Nonfarm Animal Caretakers. In the table below, percentages may not add to 100% since employers may select more than one time period.

How Much Work Experience
Do Employers Require?
More than 5 years 0%
25 to 60 months 25%
13 to 24 months 8%
1 to 12 months 75%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

About Recruitment:  Of the 18 employers surveyed in San Diego County, many indicate it is moderately difficult to find applicants with experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements, while most indicate it is easy to find applicants without previous experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements to fill vacancies for Nonfarm Animal Caretakers.

About Hiring:  Of the 18 employers surveyed in San Diego County, most expect the number of Nonfarm Animal Caretakers they employ to remain stable during the coming year.

Hiring Expectations
Expect Employment to Increase 0%
Expect Employment to Remain Stable 72%
Expect Employment to Decline 28%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

About Vacancies:  Of the 18 employers surveyed in San Diego County, 61 percent hired Nonfarm Animal Caretakers during the past year. Of the hiring firms, 82 percent filled existing vacancies, 18 percent filled newly created positions, and 27 percent filled temporary assignments.

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Those working within the industry may recommend an interested candidate for jobs. Newspaper classified ads and the Internet provide additional sources for job listings. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Nonfarm Animal Caretakers.

  • Animal Hospitals
  • Animal Shelter and Support Services
  • Kennels
  • Pet Grooming
  • Pet Sitting
  • Pet Stores
  • Stables
  • Veterinarians
  • Zoos

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

With experience and additional training, Caretakers in animal shelters may become shelter supervisors, managers, or directors; adoption coordinators; animal control officers; leash law enforcers; or emergency rescue drivers. Animal Caretakers, who work in large establishments or kennels, may move into supervisory or managerial positions or may start their own businesses. In zoos and stables, Caretakers may advance to jobs as managers or trainers. With additional education, Caretakers in hospitals and clinics can pursue jobs such as veterinary technicians.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Nonfarm Animal Caretakers with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Agricultural and Food Science TechniciansProfile
Animal BreedersProfile
Animal Control WorkersProfile
Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal CaretakersProfile

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification39-2021
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Nonfarm Animal Caretakers39-2021.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)RCS