While the American Red Cross is well known for its CPR and first aid courses for humans, many people are not aware that the organization also offers a pet first aid training and certification course. The Red Cross offers the four hour course at select chapters across the country.
Participants learn CPR and first aid techniques by practicing on dog and cat mannequins. Other areas of emphasis include splinting broken bones, managing wounds and bleeding, burn care, dealing with choking emergencies and bloat, administering medication, and disaster preparedness. If a course is not offered in your area, materials are also available through the Red Cross store in the form of books and DVDs.
Pet first aid classes are also offered through pet stores, veterinary offices, pet sitting organizations, and online. There are many DVDs and manuals devoted to the subject as well. First aid kits are available for purchase through a number of outlets, or you can assemble your own.
Earning a certification in pet first aid can be of particular value to those offering pet sitting or dog walking services, and should be highlighted in promotional materials. First aid training is also a plus on the resume of aspiring animal industry professionals.
May 15-22 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Organizations such as the United States Postal service and several medical groups are joining the AVMA in promoting safety measures to minimize the occurrence of dog bites.
Taking a few basic precautions can greatly minimize your risk of being bitten. A dog that feels threatened is more likely to defend itself by biting. Be careful not to startle a dog, especially when it is sleeping or with its puppies. Avoid direct eye contact, which is viewed as a challenge. Never leave young children unattended with a dog, and do not encourage aggressive forms of play such as wrestling and tug-of-war. Spaying or neutering pets also reduces aggressive tendencies. Do not approach unfamiliar dogs running loose, and report any that are behaving strangely to your local animal control center.
Those working with dogs in a professional setting should also practice caution around unfamiliar animals. The proper use of restraints such as muzzles can minimize the risk of bites during medical procedures.
View more animal safety tips here.
1. Approach all animals with caution.Take care to avoid blind spots and approach slowly so animals are aware of your presence and proximity. Talk softly as you approach so they hear you coming. Sudden movements are never a good idea, regardless of the breed involved.
2. Stay alert.Bites, kicks, and scratches are often delivered when a handler is distracted. When you are working with animals they need to have your complete attention at all times. A moment of carelessness is all it takes to sustain a potentially serious injury.
3. Study the behavior of the breed you’re working with.Pay attention to body language, especially the signs of agitation. For example, horses pin their ears, strike with their teeth, and kick when upset. Dogs growl, crouch, and bare their teeth. You should be aware of the warning signs before attempting to work with an animal.
4. Be aware of zoonotic diseases.Zoonotic diseases are those that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Examples of transmissible diseases include ringworm, salmonella, herpes B, rabies, hepatitis, and tuberculosis. Know the basic signs of an infected animal and be aware of how transmission can occur. Seek immediate medical attention after any potential exposure.
5. Are you allergic?Realize that allergens such as animal dander could result in sneezing, wheezing, watery eyes, or breaking out in hives. Some individuals have severe breathing emergencies which require use of an inhaler or even hospitalization. Allergy shots may be necessary to minimize your reaction so that you can safely work with animals in a hands-on capacity.
6. Inspect handling facilities for safety.Sharp edges, slippery floors, improper lighting, and other structural hazards are responsible for many accidents and injuries. Maintain a safe environment and keep equipment in good working order.
7. Wear personal protective equipment.Items of PPE can include a variety of options such as safety glasses, latex gloves, masks, steel toed footwear, helmets, coveralls, and lead aprons. If there is a product available and it is appropriate for the task at hand, consider taking advantage of it.
8. Restrain animals properly.Securing animals safely can help you to avoid sprains, strains, slip and fall accidents, and other physical injuries. Large animals, such as cattle and horses, should be placed in stocks or stalls. Halters, hobbles, or other restraints can also be utilized. Dogs can be muzzled and cats can be wrapped gently in towels. In extreme cases, a tranquilizer should be administered by a veterinarian.
9. Dispose of medical waste in appropriate containers.Always handle hazardous medical equipment, such as needles or chemicals, with caution. Never throw needles away in the trash. Most clinics and farms keep special red biohazard disposal boxes on hand for this purpose.
10. Have an exit strategy.An exit strategy is especially important when working with large animals in pens, stalls, or chutes. Don’t allow yourself to get cornered; maintain a clear path of escape at all times.
During this month consider volunteering your time at a local shelter or rescue group. Volunteer work is one of the best ways to gain hands-on experience working with animals. Best of all, you get to combine working for a good cause with working to improve your resume!
Shelters usually have a wide variety of volunteer positions available. For those with office skills there are jobs such as stuffing envelopes, answering phones, and processing applications. For those wanting to work with the animals there are dogs to walk, cats to play with, and veterinarians looking for an extra set of hands to help with exams. Additionally, many groups look for volunteers on nights or weekends to staff adoption events at large pet chains.
Volunteering can be an important stepping stone to other animal industry positions. Read more here:
How to Get a Job at a Vet's Office
Groomers can learn on the job or through a variety of training programs. In addition to working for yourself, opportunities exist with large chain pet stores, vet clinics, and with boarding facilities. You can even travel around town operating a mobile grooming service!
Click here to learn more about a career working as a dog groomer.
Certified Animal Safety Rep
Many people outside the industry question the protection of some animals — say, a cockroach. “It's all about where we draw the line,” says Jone Bouman, head of communications for American Humane's Film & Television Unit. “Should we make the cutoff at guinea pigs or dogs or larger animals? We have to protect all animals without discriminating. Our goal is to watch out for the welfare and safety of each and every animal on the set.”
American Humane started working in the film industry in the 1920s and '30s. “At that time, there were several instances of wire-tripping of horses in westerns,” says Bouman. “It was the film Jesse James, starring Henry Fonda, that had a chase scene where a horse had to jump over a cliff. The horse was forced over the cliff and died. That was in 1939, and because of that situation, American Humane was able to rally a public outcry. We weren't officially recognized on film sets before that time. The Film & Television Unit officially opened its doors in 1940.”
Certified animal safety representatives are part of the Screen Actors Guild. They are not hired by the studio, producer, or director. “That would be a conflict of interest,” says Bouman. “We aren't beholden to the people who make the film. Our reps are on the set working for American Humane. Their salaries come from grants from American Humane.”
Working with major film stars can be exciting. Rebecca Humber, who works as a full-time certified animal safety representative for American Humane, has met many A-list stars. However, she gets an even bigger thrill from the animals. “I enjoy working for the animals,” she says. “Each day is different, and often we don't know where or which set we will be working on.”
American Humane hires ten full-time reps and between twenty-five to thirty-five on-call and part-time safety reps. “We keep them as busy as possible,” says Bouman. “We host trainings once a year. It is a tough job. It can entail a lot of travel, hard work, and long days with a lot of sitting around.”
Full-time reps earn $40,000 a year to start. Part-time reps are paid by the hour. It can be as low as $15 or up to $25 an hour. Food is usually provided on the set, and hotels and transportation are paid for by American Humane if you are on the road.
Humber got her degree at Moor Park College. “I'm from northern California,” she says. “I learned about Moor Park's animal training and management programs from trainers at Sea World. After the shows, I would stay and ask all kinds of questions — mostly how they got into this business. When I was in high school, I contacted the school for information. Toward my senior year, my parents and I took a trip to the campus. I applied and got accepted. I think what helped was that I volunteered at local rescue operations.”
Even though the staff of reps is small, “we are always looking,” says Bouman. “Not everyone is comfortable with the amount of travel and unpredictability of not always knowing what set you will be working on. This type of schedule does lead to openings. I'm always looking for people with equine experience or trainers who work with livestock. Being able to work with dogs, cats, horses, and other animals gives you a leg up in this job.”
Rescued from a shelter, Sandy appeared in the production for seven years. Sandy was the first animal to have a starring role in a major Broadway production. After working with Sandy, Berloni trained other animals for careers in theater, film, and television.
Animals and their trainers have a strong bond. “It is in the trainer's best interest to make sure that the animals they are working with are well cared for,” says Rose Ordile. “After all, a happy, well-cared-for animal gives the best performance. No one wants to work with an overworked, tired animal. It doesn't benefit anyone. So good trainers take good care of the animals they work with.”
Ordile has made live appearances with Morris the Cat. “A cat sleeps about 70 percent of the day,” she explains. “However, getting them to lie still or react positively to a crowd takes a lot of training. The dynamics of a live appearance are similar, but not the same as a filmed production.”
Most animal trainers work with animals in film, television, and theater. Basically, the same skills are needed for each, and the education is similar. Most are certified animal trainers. Salaries are also in the same ballpark.
People who make wildlife documentaries should have a strong background in animal science and film. Lacking the latter, they can hire a film crew. In the case of wildlife conservationist Chris Morgan, chance played a major role. While Morgan was leading an expedition of tourists through Katmai National Park in Alaska, a filmmaker from PBS (Public Broadcasting System) started filming, unbeknownst to Morgan. The filmmaker, Joe Pon-tecorvo, captured Morgan and his tour group closely watching about a dozen bears dining on local salmon. The tourists' eyes opened like saucers being so close to the bears. After Morgan talked about the bears, Pontecorvo stopped filming and told him he got great footage. Afterward, the two went to a local pub for a beer and discussed working together to make a documentary called BearTrek.
“I was quite lucky to happen upon Joe,” says Morgan. “Actually, my career studying bears has had many twists along the way.”
He got his first glimpse of bears while working as a camp counselor in New Hampshire's White Mountains. He was eighteen years old at the time and was planning to attend school when summer camp ended. His plan was to return to England, his native home, and attend a university to become a computer graphics artist. “Everything was set,” he says. “I had this summer job in the States, and was planning on going to art school.”
Plans changed when a wildlife conservationist who studied bears gave a talk to the kids at the camp. Morgan stayed for the lecture, and afterward asked the conservationist about “a million questions,” he says. “I got his number and kept on asking him to take me out with him.”
One day he got a call in the evening, and was told to be ready at 9 o'clock that night. The bear expert showed up in his pickup truck and took Morgan to a garbage dump. “I saw fourteen black bears,” Morgan says. “We watched them and tracked them. It changed my life. I knew I couldn't go to art school. I had to study bears.”
When he returned home, he found a school that offered a program in conservation management. After college, he got a master's degree in advanced ecology. His work focused on carnivore research and bear ecology. Within the past twenty years, he has worked on bear research and education projects on every continent where bears are found, in regions including northern Spain, the Pakistani Himalayas, the Canadian Arctic, Ecuador, the Canadian Rockies, and Borneo. He is currently living in Washington State, where he started a nonprofit company called Insight Wildlife Management. Insight offers research, education, and ecotourism products and services that focus on the eight bear species in the world. Morgan relies on raising funds through Insight and other nonprofits for completing and showcasing BearTrek.
BearTrek will cost about $1.6 million to make and promote. Of that sum, $400,000 will be donated to several major bear conservation projects — including those groups that are profiled in the film. To raise the money, Morgan established a production company called Wildlife Media and hired a grant writer. “It's a big part of getting this project off the ground and keeping it afloat,” he says.
Pontecorvo and the rest of the documentary crew will film Morgan as he travels to different parts of the world exploring bears in their natural habitats and the people who work on behalf of bear conservation. The documentary will also show how bears impact our environment on a local level.
Morgan enjoys working on the film because he gets to bring his message to the public and he gets to be around bears. Being out in the wild can get lonely. He and his crew have formed tight relationships. Living outdoors and in sparse conditions doesn't seem to bother Morgan or his crew. “It's an adventure,” he says. “I have what I need on a material level. Being surrounded by this beauty is amazing. Plus we get to meet incredible people from different cultures who share our concerns.”
He has been doing this work for just over twenty-one years, and his enthusiasm is still as fresh as when he spotted his first bears in New Hampshire's White Mountains. Finances are secondary to the pleasure of being around bears and the people who are working to protect them. There have been times when he would just scrape by, but that doesn't seem to bother him. He loves his life and the fact that he can create a documentary explaining the importance of the bear population in the world, and how that population affects mankind.
As a columnist, she spends a lot of time with animals. “I have a tremendous amount of contact with animals, or I'd be worthless as a pet columnist,” she says. “I've been passionate about dogs and cats all my life. Some interviews are conducted on the telephone, some online, but most in person. I'm constantly covering events large and small.”
With newspapers cutting editorial space, writing about animals can be a challenge. Lowell Smith wrote about animals every chance she got when she was freelancing covering human interest stories. “When the opening developed at the Star-Ledger, I gathered a bunch of articles I'd written about animals and submitted the portfolio,” she says. “Many articles were from minor newspapers, but the Ledger was only interested in content, so I guess my message would be that no one should be reticent to submit work from minor media, since one would assume that a writer always does her best, whether the readership is 6,000 or over a million like the Ledger.”
Lowell Smith suggests joining Dog Writers Association of America (www.dwwa.org) and Cat Writers' Association (www.catwriters.org) to learn more about jobs and events.
In addition to writing for newspapers, animal lovers can write for magazines, newsletters, and websites. Many nonprofit wildlife associations have newsletters. All need editorial staff. To become a writer, columnist, or editor at a publication, it is a good idea to major in journalism or English at an accredited college or university, and to start out as a staff intern. You also could start by writing articles in your spare time, and submitting them as freelance pieces.
Another career path for writers is to specialize in some form of animal behavior or science. Many scientific journals will publish well-written articles on animal-related topics.
Staff writers earn between $35,000 and $55,000 annually. Editors earn more; salaries may start at $50,000, depending on the size of the publication.
Many people who work for nonprofit organizations, such as the Humane Society of the United States and the National Anti-Vivisection Society, are educating the public about the welfare of the thousands of animals that are used in experiments. These organizations hire researchers to study animal behavior.
Jonathan Balcombe, PhD, a senior research scientist with the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, has devoted his work to studying animals and their behaviors without experimenting on them. He says he is a research scientist who doesn't wear a white lab coat or test on animals. “I study animal behavior, research scientific literature, write books, prepare research papers for lectures, and publish scholarly papers,” he says. “I'm fortunate enough to be with Physicians Committee because they promote alternatives to animal research.”
Balcombe, a vegan who loves studying animals, feels quite fortunate that he found a niche for himself in the animal world. His recent book, Pleasurable Kingdom, which explains to readers that animals do indeed experience joy, has opened many doors for his work. “The message in my book, which is geared for the public, is in line with my work at Physicians Committee,” he says. “The book shows readers that animals experience a wide range of emotions — including happiness.”
Because of the popularity of his book, he gets to tour the country speaking on behalf of the animals and the work of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “I wrote Pleasurable Kingdom independently of my work at Physicians Committee,” he says. “However, the message in my book coincides with that of Physicians Committee. Prior to my work on this book, the subject matter was grossly overlooked by most biologists. The research benefits animals and provides credibility to the issue that animals experience pleasure. I enjoy that I can work as an ambassador for them.”
FactAnimal rights organizations have changed the research industry. For instance, they have stopped the military's cat-shooting studies, DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) narcotics experiments, and monkey self-mutilation programs. Because of the efforts of Physicians Committee and other humane organizations, more than three-quarters of all U.S. medical schools have dropped their animal labs for medical students.
Having a bachelor of science degree is a start, but most animal researchers also have an advanced degree. Graduate students with a master's or doctorate can apply either to nonprofit organizations or to academia. Salaries at colleges and universities are often higher than those at nonprofits. Someone with a PhD can expect to earn in the low to mid-$50,000s to start. Mid-level researchers earn $60,000.