If you have ever seen an episode of Animal Cops, you have seen the work of an animal welfare specialist. If you haven't, then you probably know the term "animal control" better. An animal welfare specialist is someone who makes sure that pets and wild animals are living in the best possible environment, that they are receiving adequate care, and that they are able to live as naturally as possible.
Education and Career Fields
To become a certified animal welfare specialist, you must attend a veterinary course and pass a specialist certification within five years. For example, you could get a degree in veterinary tech or a Bachelor's in veterinary medicine, and then, later on, enroll in an animal welfare certification.
The certification is done through the American College of Animal Welfare. Like many other veterinary specialties, they will conduct a series of classes, internships, and a final exam. Once the exam is passed, a student can find a job as an animal welfare specialist.
Some of these jobs are an animal control officer, wildlife park ranger, or working somewhere such as an animal shelter, rescue, or humane society. Throughout their careers, most animal welfare specialists must continue to attend seminars, special training, and workshops to help keep their knowledge up-to-date and correct.
What Do They Do?
Animal welfare specialists are responsible for many things when investigating a case. While they are still in school, they have to learn how to decipher the best course of action for everyone involved; humans as well as animals. The steps taken are usually:
- Identify a situation where an animal's welfare may be in jeopardy
- Assess the best course of action for that situation
- Write a report on how to better or control the situation
- Take action
If an animal welfare specialist works for law enforcement, they usually have to take evidence to appear in court if the owner is facing animal cruelty charges. For park rangers, they may have to show evidence if someone is convicted of hunting or trapping illegally. Planning ahead is essential in this field.
Animal welfare specialists also have to help exotic and wild animals. Sometimes birds fly into windows and get hurt or even can get caught in things. Occasionally, people poach or hunt illegally. It is the responsibility of an animal welfare specialist to make sure that the injured animals get proper veterinary care and are released safely back to their habitat. They also have to help bring poachers to justice.
Some animal welfare specialists must check farms to make sure that animals are being properly cared for no matter their purpose. If the animals are for butchering, the specialist must decide if the euthanization is humane. For other animals such as dairy cows, llamas, goats, or alpacas, they check and see that their stalls and living conditions are clean, safe, and healthy. Corrals must be clean, and pastures should have the right fencing and plenty of grazing options, so animals are not malnourished. Everything must be observed to make sure the animals are being cared for and that their goods are not going to harm humans either.
One of the most important jobs that animal welfare specialists have is educating the public on animal care. A lot of times that animals are hurt or sick is due no education on how to care for pets. They go out and teach people things such as:
- Spaying and neutering and its importance
- Exercise, diet, and grooming
- Where it is safe to keep pets in different conditions
- How to prevent wild animals from becoming pests, such as raccoons or hungry bears
- Animal welfare policies
Lastly, other jobs that these guardians of the animal kingdom must do are less action-packed, but no less important. For animals that are in rehab or in shelters, they must make sure they are getting correct exercise and nutrition, as well as any medications necessary. They also must screen potential adopters for in-house animals to make sure they don't fall into the wrong hands again.
Why Is Their Job Important?
As anyone knows who has possibly watched any animal rescue shows, or have seen firsthand, the job of an animal welfare specialist is not an easy one. They often have to go into homes where animals are abused, neglected, and dying. Sometimes the owners, despite the poor care, are not willing to let their pets go. This can become a tricky situation for someone trying to take the pets away.
It may seem harsh, but it is usually for the better. These specialists usually take animals from puppy mills or dog fighting situations where their lives are constantly in danger. Others seize animals from hoarding situations where they are just not receiving any care at all. Still other situations could be as simple as a dog left in a hot car, or a cat left behind in a move.
Most of the animals seized will be taken to a veterinary hospital and/or shelter and treated for their health issues. From there, most pets will hopefully find new and loving homes to belong to. Unfortunately, this can sometimes not be the case. This career is an ever-changing and emotional one.
How Can You Be Involved?
There are many animal welfare groups that are open for the public. You can help advocate the proper treatment of animals by joining them or simply by donating. Most of them have volunteer opportunities. Some of the most recognized are:
- The Best Friends Society
- Humane Society
- Dumb Friends Animal League
These groups dedicate their time to helping better animal lives. Whether this be by helping the environment, sheltering animals, or providing care.
Sometimes this job is very hard, as not all animals survive cruelty cases or get adopted out. Lots of people believe that animal welfare specialists are meddling or, on the other end of the spectrum, don't do their job correctly. They are often criticized and not considered welcome.
However, most that work in this field love the excitement and day-to-day change of events. Most of all, they enjoy protecting innocent animals. To them, as long as the animal is happy, that is all that matters!