What Animal Care and Service Workers Do
Animal care and service workers attend to animals.
Animal care and service workers are employed in a variety of settings, including kennels, zoos, stables, animal shelters, pet stores, veterinary clinics, and aquariums. Some parts of the job may be physically or emotionally demanding, and workers risk injury when caring for animals.
How to Become an Animal Care and Service Worker
Animal care and service workers typically have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn the occupation on the job. Many employers prefer to hire candidates who have experience working with animals.
The median annual wage for animal caretakers was $24,780 in May 2019.
The median annual wage for animal trainers was $30,430 in May 2019.
Employment of animal care and service workers is projected to grow 22 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth along with high job turnover should result in very good job opportunities.
Animal care and service workers attend to animals. They feed, groom, bathe, and exercise pets and other nonfarm animals.
Animal care and service workers typically do the following:
- Give food and water to animals
- Clean equipment and the living spaces of animals
- Monitor animals and record details of their diet, physical condition, and behavior
- Examine animals for signs of illness or injury
- Exercise animals
- Bathe animals, trim nails, clip hair, and attend to other grooming needs
- Train animals to obey or to behave in a specific manner
The following are types of animal care and service workers:
Animal trainers teach animals a variety of skills, such as obedience, performance, riding, security, and assisting people with disabilities. They familiarize animals with human voices and contact, and they teach animals to respond to commands. Most animal trainers work with dogs and horses, but some work with marine mammals, such as dolphins. Trainers teach a variety of skills. For example, some train dogs to guide people with disabilities, or they may train animals for a competition.
Groomers specialize in maintaining a pet’s appearance. They typically groom dogs and cats, which may include cutting, trimming, shampooing, and styling fur; clipping nails; and cleaning ears. Groomers also schedule appointments, sell products to pet owners, and identify problems that may require veterinary attention.
Groomers may work in or operate a grooming salon, kennel, veterinary clinic, pet supply store, or mobile grooming service, a self-contained business that travels to clients’ homes.
Grooms work at stables, caring for horses and maintaining equipment. Responsibilities include feeding, grooming, and exercising horses; cleaning stalls; polishing saddles; and organizing the tack room, which stores harnesses, saddles, and bridles. Experienced grooms sometimes help train horses.
Kennel attendants care for pets, often overnight, in place of owners. They clean cages and dog runs and feed, exercise, and play with animals. Experienced attendants also may provide basic healthcare, bathe animals, and attend to other basic grooming needs.
Nonfarm animal caretakers typically work with cats and dogs in animal shelters or rescue leagues. All caretakers attend to the basic needs of animals and may have administrative duties, such as keeping records, answering questions from the public, educating visitors about pet health, and screening people who want to adopt an animal. Experienced caretakers may have more responsibilities, such as helping to vaccinate or euthanize animals alongside a veterinarian.
Pet sitters look after animals while the pet owner is away. Most pet sitters feed, walk, and play with pets daily. They go to the pet owner’s home, allowing the pet to stay in its familiar surroundings and follow its routine. Experienced pet sitters also may bathe, groom, or train pets. Pet sitters typically watch over dogs, but some also take care of cats and other pets.
Zookeepers care for animals in zoos. They plan diets, feed animals, and monitor the animals’ eating patterns. They also clean the animals’ enclosures and monitor behavior for signs of illness or injury. Depending on the size of the zoo, they may work with one species or multiple species of animals. Zookeepers may help raise young animals, and they often spend time answering questions from the public.
Animal caretakers held about 300,700 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of animal caretakers were as follows:
|Other personal services||33%|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||12|
|Social advocacy organizations||4|
Animal trainers held about 50,200 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of animal trainers were as follows:
|Support activities for agriculture and forestry||21|
|Animal production and aquaculture||14|
|Arts, entertainment, and recreation||7|
Animal care and service workers are employed in a variety of settings. Many work at kennels; others work at zoos, stables, animal shelters, pet stores, veterinary clinics, and aquariums. Their work may involve travel.
Although animal care and service workers may consider their work enjoyable and rewarding, they face unpleasant and emotionally distressing situations at times. For example, those who work in shelters may observe abused, injured, or sick animals. Some caretakers may have to help veterinarians euthanize injured or unwanted animals.
In addition, a lot the work involves physical tasks, such as moving and cleaning cages, lifting bags of food, and exercising animals.
Injuries and Illnesses
Animal care and service workers may be bitten, scratched, or kicked when working with scared or aggressive animals. Injuries may also happen while the caretaker is holding, cleaning, or restraining an animal.
Animals may need care around the clock in facilities that operate 24 hours a day, such as kennels, animal shelters, and stables. Caretakers often work irregular schedules, including evenings, weekends, and holidays.
Some nonfarm animal caretakers work part time.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of animal care and service workers.
|Occupation||Job Duties||Entry-Level Education||Median Annual Pay, May 2019|
Agricultural workers maintain crops and tend to livestock.
|See How to Become One||$25,840|
Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers run establishments that produce crops, livestock, and dairy products.
|High school diploma or equivalent||$71,160|
Veterinarians care for the health of animals and work to protect public health.
|Doctoral or professional degree||$95,460|
Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers handle routine animal care and help scientists, veterinarians, and others with their daily tasks.
|High school diploma or equivalent||$28,590|
Veterinary technologists and technicians do medical tests that help diagnose animals’ injuries and illnesses.
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists
Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animals and other wildlife and how they interact with their ecosystems.
For more information about pet groomers, visit
For more information about pet sitters, including information on certification, visit
For more information about animal trainers, visit
For more information about keepers, visit
For a career video on animal trainers, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Animal Care and Service Workers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/animal-care-and-service-workers.htm (visited ).