5 Awesomely Unusual Careers for Animal-Lovers

Pets play a vital role in the homes and lives of people across the country. Often treated as family members, animals can not only provide love and affection, but they’ve also been found to improve people’s health by decreasing stress levels, lowering blood pressure, and even boosting babies’ immune systems.

Statistics vary on how many US household have pets. The American Veterinary Medical Association (2012) reported that 36.5 percent of households in the United States owned dogs and 30.4 percent owned cats. By contrast, more recent statistics from the American Pet Products Association (2017) found that 68 percent of US households had pets. While greater numbers of American households owned dogs and cats—60.2 million and 47.1 million, respectively—there were more freshwater fish across US homes than any other animal (139.3 million fish total). In short, pets are an invaluable part of the fabric of American homes.

Naturally, many people adopt pets for their companionship, loyalty, or affection. However, others bring animals into their homes with benevolent intentions: they simply love caring for these furry, fuzzy, and scaly-skinned creatures.

Fortunately for these animal-lovers, there are many unexpected careers which allow people to unite their work life with their personal interests. And while some choose to become veterinarians, vet assistants, or vet techs, others may discover more obscure professions, including work in canine sports massage therapy or wildlife rehabilitation.

Overall, there are many awesome and unusual opportunities for those eager to merge their career with their fondness of creatures. To assist with the search, here are five fantastic careers for animal-lovers.

Canine Sports Massage Therapist

Dog-lovers will be happy to learn that job opportunities exist in a niche field: canine sports massage therapy. This career, as described by Equissage (2017)—a leading trainer of animal massage therapists—is “the therapeutic application of hands-on deep tissue techniques to the voluntary muscle system for the purpose of increasing circulation, reducing muscle spasms, relieving tension, enhancing muscle tone, promoting healing and increasing range of motion in all breeds of dogs.” Canine sports massage therapists may provide massage therapy for pet dogs, companion animals, service animals, or even dogs that race.

Certification is also available in this field and may enhance a person’s job candidacy. In fact, Equissage provides a certification program for canine massage therapists, as does the Northwest School of Animal Massage, where students can obtain three levels of credentialing to develop their skills in animal massage therapy. The workplace for canine massage therapists also varies as some seek employment in clinics or other facilities, while others work directly from home or in their clients’ residences.

Salary expectations for canine sports massage therapists vary widely and depend on experience, employer, and location in the United States. Equissage (2017) reports that a canine massage therapist can expect to earn between $40 and $70 per session, with these sessions lasting between 40 and 50 minutes.

Wildlife Rehabilitator

A career as a wildlife rehabilitator can prove a perfect opportunity for someone who loves animals and the outdoors. There are countless wild animals unable to take care of themselves due to accidents, disease, or other maladies. As described by PAWS (2017), a non-profit organization, wildlife rehabilitation is a profession that provides treatment and care for injured, sick, or orphaned wild animals “with the goal of releasing them back to their natural habitats in the wild.” This combines knowledge of several fields such as biology, zoology, animal behavior, veterinary care, and animal husbandry, among others.

It’s important to note that while certification and training for wildlife rehabilitation is available, it is illegal to attempt to rehabilitate an animal without the necessary permits. As such, anyone interested in this career should research required documentation for their specific state before undertaking any work. In addition, wildlife rehabilitators may obtain training through volunteer opportunities or internships. Some states may require formal classroom education before a permit will be issued, according to the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association. These professionals may find work in rehabilitation centers, veterinary clinics, animal sanctuaries, national parks, and other facilities.

Of course, salaries for wildlife rehabilitators vary widely depending on area of employment, certification achieved, and experience, among other considerations. Simply Hired (2017) found an average annual salary of approximately $66,000, with the bottom 10 percent earning just over $36,500, and the top 10 percent bringing in $120,000.

Farrier

Although the name sounds exotic to 21st century ears, a farrier is simply someone who outfits horses with metal shoes. Becoming a farrier can be a truly enriching job for someone who enjoys working with these large, intelligent animals.

Ultimately, farrier job duties embrace much more than dealing with equine hooves. According to the Farrier Guide (2017), the job involves “some skills of a veterinarian in caring for the horses’ hooves and some of a blacksmith, applying and adjusting horseshoes.” Farriers are responsible for observing the hooves of horses, looking for signs of disease or ill-health, and must also spot any potential lameness issues, as well. In addition, farriers are responsible for trimming and cleaning the horses’ hooves, as well as measuring for shoe size, bending and shaping the shoes, and eventually applying them to the animals.

There are multiple paths to become a farrier in the US, including on-the-job learning in apprenticeships, as well as formal education programs. While apprenticeships may provide quality empirical experience, classroom programs will also teach the aspiring farrier necessary subjects relating to anatomy and veterinary science, both of which are central to this occupation. Furthermore, certifications exist for farriers, which can help demonstrate one’s commitment to the field; for example, farriers can obtain certification through the American Farrier’s Association, which involves submitting to an examination of skills. In general, farriers work on ranches, in stables, or on farms which house horses.

The salary for farriers varies depending on a number of factors, including the experience of the farrier, as well as the clientele. According to Salary.com (April 2017), the median annual salary for a farrier is $22,417, with a range usually between $18,131 and $27,062.

Animal Cruelty Investigator

Unfortunately, animal cruelty is still prevalent in our society, placing many animals in harm’s way through abuse or neglect. Because of this, animal cruelty investigators are instrumental in protecting innocent creatures. In general, animal cruelty investigators are responsible for investigating potentially abusive situations and removing animals, if required. This discipline falls under the realm of criminal justice, meaning these individuals must apply traditional methods of criminal investigation to protect the rights of abused creatures, combining empathy, an orientation to detail, and a passion for doing what’s right.

Because animal cruelty investigators have such important responsibilities, they must undergo thorough training before they are eligible to work in such a capacity. Some animal cruelty investigators may begin working in the field of veterinary medicine, either as a doctor or technician, and undergo additional training through a law enforcement department. Others may begin in law enforcement and transition into an animal cruelty investigator capacity. Aspiring investigators may choose to pursue formal training through the Law Enforcement Training Institute (University of Missouri Extension), which offers a 40-hour course on animal cruelty investigation. In this program, students learn about animal law and constitutional law, report-writing, nutrition, communications, officer safety and survival, and a number of other topics relevant to the job. Completion of this program may help prepare a graduate for a career in the field. In general, animal cruelty investigators work in law enforcement teams with local departments.

According to Salary Expert (2017), animal cruelty investigators earn an average base salary of $30,691, or approximately $15 per hour. Of course, salary will depend on experience, with an entry-level salary of just over $23,500, and a senior-level salary of almost $40,500.

Pet Adoption Counselor

For those individuals who are eager to help dogs, cats, and other creatures find a loving home, a career as a pet adoption counselor may be a great fit. Pet adoption counselors often work in humane societies or private pet adoption centers. They are responsible for interviewing potential owners and/or families to determine if they would provide a healthy and happy home for a specific animal. Pet adoption counselors may be provided with a list of predetermined questions by their employer, or they may be asked to create a list for themselves; in both cases, these questions are meant to gather information that may be relevant to the adoption process. For example, a pet adoption counselor may ask whether children are in the home and use that information to suggest certain animal types, breeds, or sizes over others.

Pet adoption counselors are not required to possess any specific training or certification to be eligible for this occupation. That being said, many employers look for candidates who have customer service training, as well as experience working directly with multiple types of animals. Pet adoption counselors should also have strong interpersonal skills, as they will be working directly with individuals and families. Additional information about the position can be found through organizations such as Maddie’s Fund, which provides a comprehensive guide detailing the specifics of working in this capacity.

Salary expectations vary for these professionals, although Salary Expert (2017) reports that the average salary for pet adoption counselors in the US is $22,524, or approximately $11 per hour. Again, experience will affect this as well, with entry-level salaries starting at $17,774, and senior-level salaries at just over $28,300.

Conclusion: Unusual Jobs for Animal-Lovers

For some individuals, a career dealing directly with animals is a dream come true. And while many choose more traditional professions such as a veterinary technician or even a doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM), others search for fields off the beaten path. In short, people interested in combining their love of animals with their vocation may consider one of these five awesomely unusual job opportunities.