What does an animal handler do?

An animal handler oversees the safety, dietary needs and daily exercise regimens of animals in their care. They work with animals housed in both indoor and outdoor enclosures and may even work in game reserves, in law enforcement, or on film and television sets. An animal handler working in a zoo may be assigned a specific type of animal but, in other settings, may work with many different species. Food preparation, exercise plans, mating and fertility programmes, and basic medical care are key components of the role.

Tasks:

  • Daily feeding and grooming
  • Basic health checks and medical procedures
  • Maintaining animal enclosure hygiene
  • Assisting in returning animals to the wild
  • Observing reactions to tests

What skills do I need to be an animal handler?

Becoming an animal handler involves a lot of manual labour and the ability to cope with animals that may be ill or in distress. Most importantly, you must have a genuine love of animals and a desire to help them. It’s also essential you are not allergic to animal hair, feathers, fur or dust. Animal handlers need to be patient, compassionate and confident in wrangling animals of all sizes and species according to the facility’s occupational health and safety policies. The role requires tertiary scientific-based qualifications.

Skills/attributes
  • Affinity with animals
  • Confident around animals
  • Willingness to work hard and perform messy tasks
  • Team player
  • Excellent physical fitness

Specialisations

Career progressions available to those pursuing a career as an animal handler include a wide variety of specialisations, and the ability to work in a wide variety of contexts. These are just some of the career specialisations available.

Dog Trainer

Dog trainers may work teaching assistance dogs, such as guide dogs, or hearing, and therapy dogs that help the disabled improve their quality of life and perform everyday tasks. They may also pursue a career in training dogs that assist the police or other law enforcement agencies. Dog trainers generally work under the supervision of senior instructors.

Pet Groomer

Pet groomers work with domestic animals such as cats and dogs maintaining their appearance, hygiene and basic health. They bathe animals, trim their fur and claws, and check for problems such as tooth decay, fleas, ear infections, and skin problems. Pet groomers typically work in grooming salons, veterinary clinics, hotels and resorts, animal hospitals and shelters, or run their own business.

Veterinary Nurse

Veterinary nurses work in veterinary clinics, hospitals, zoos and animal welfare organisations assisting veterinarians in the treatment and care of sick or injured domestic, farm and zoo animals. Duties include administering injections and medication, X-rays, sending samples for testing, and maintaining sterile and equipment and a hygienic environment.

Study pathways for animal handlers

In order to become an animal handler, you will need to complete a traineeship or qualification to demonstrate your knowledge and commitment in the field. Employers often have minimum qualifications you must obtain prior to employment.

Getting Started

Turn your passion for animals into a career with entry-level animal handling courses.

Skill Building

Work towards a career that matches your skills and commitment with a range of recognised qualification options.

Professional Development

Pursue professional employment options that will challenge and excite you in the animal care field.

Industry Recognition

Animal handlers in Australia are required to attain industry accreditation. Find out more about the professional requirements of the animal care industry in the Resources section.

Getting a job after graduation

Put your training to good use and get a head start in your animal handling career. Take a look at our sample resume and cover letter and put your best foot forward when you apply for animal care jobs.

Job Prospects and Salaries

Employment in the animal care industry has risen slightly in recent years. In the long-term forecast to November 2019, job prospects for employment for Animal Attendants and Trainers are expected to remain steady.