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Animal care

The animal care industry offers opportunities to work in kennels or catteries, through to animal charities, zoos and wildlife parks. The work in this industry generally covers the health, welfare, handling supervision and husbandry of animals. Animal care encompasses: pet shops; animal boarding establishments, animal breeding; dog training (including animals in entertainment and education, as well as working dogs); pet styling and grooming; animal welfare charities; animal care services (for example animal hydrotherapy, dog walkers/sitters); zoos and wildlife parks (including wildlife rehabilitation); animal visitor attractions; and animal related public services (for example dog/animal wardens).

Key statistics:

  • There are approximately 78,000 people working in the industry, in around 12,650 businesses.
  • Almost three quarters of the animal care industry accounts for pet shops and pet supplies, boarding establishments, and dog clipping and grooming businesses.
  • 86% of businesses employ 5 or less staff.
  • 87% of the workforce is employed full-time.
  • 29% of the workforce is male.
  • Between 99% and 100% of employers are white.
  • 33% of the workforce is 25-34 years.
  • 43% of business owners/managers are aged 35-44 years.
  • 3% of employees and less than 1% of employees consider themselves to have a disability.
  • Volunteers are a significant part of the workforce within the animal care industry.
  • 34% of employees and 40% of employers have animal care qualifications.

Jobs in the industry include: animal trainer (audio visual), assistance dog trainer, head zoo keeper, dog trainer – racing greyhounds, inspector, dog trainer – uniformed forces, animal care assistant, animal clinic assistant, dog groomer, manager of zoos or wildlife establishments, safari park ranger, dog warden

Entry requirements for this industry vary depending on the job role. Some jobs require no formal qualifications. However, relevant qualifications and experience can be an advantage, especially for higher paid job roles. Technical/specialist roles may require specific qualifications and/or experience, but some employers may invest in training a suitable individual. Volunteering or taking seasonal/temporary work can improve employment opportunities. There are good opportunities for those wishing to change career.

Drivers of change in employment are:

  • Ongoing animal health and welfare legislation – A new duty of care, together with the consolidation and review of over 20 pieces of animal welfare legislation relating to farmed and non-farmed animals, has affected business performance and professional development.
  • Continuous professional development in animal husbandry, health and welfare (including ethical working/duty of care) is required.
  • Climate change is having an effect on the processes and operations of the sector – The industry has a positive input into this agenda with the ability not only to produce non-fossil fuels, but to produce sustainable alternatives. Many zoos have also taken to recycling as part of their ongoing commitment to conservation.
  • Land and animal owners and businesses will need to consider the management of animals and the land.
  • There is also a need for higher level skills for the research and development of new vaccines and technologies to cope with potential new diseases as well as all round skills to ensure sustainability.
  • Economic factors have had a pronounced effect on the behaviour of pet/animal owners with owners less able to provide high quality care.
  • Skills and knowledge in responsible pet ownership and care including feed and nutritional information need to be widely promoted.
  • Litigation/product insurance – To keep up to date with current legislation and consumer rights, businesses will require good knowledge and understanding of legal obligations and should consider undertaking risk assessments as well as holding professional indemnity insurance.

The most common skills gaps are: providing information and advice to customers; animal health and welfare; handling animals; communication; customer relations; and planning and organisation.

National and regional data:

  • South East – There are an estimated 11,200 employees in the regional workforce, in around 1,850 businesses.
  • South West – There are an estimated 9,400 employees in the regional workforce, in around 1,450 businesses.
  • East of England – There are an estimated 9,300 employees in the regional workforce, in around 1,450 businesses.
  • London – There are an estimated 8,750 employees in the regional workforce, in around 1,000 businesses.
  • Scotland – There are an estimated 7,900 employees in the regional workforce, in around 1,050 businesses.
  • West Midlands – There are an estimated 7,300 employees in the regional workforce, in around 1,050 businesses.
  • East Midlands – There are an estimated 6,750 employees in the regional workforce, in around 1,100 businesses.
  • North West – There are an estimated 6,100 employees in the regional workforce, in around 1,300 businesses.
  • Yorkshire and the Humber – There are an estimated 5,700 employees in the regional workforce, in around 1,050 businesses.
  • Wales – There are an estimated 2,500 employees in the regional workforce, in around 650 businesses.
  • North East – There are an estimated 2,100 employees in the regional workforce, in around 450 businesses.
  • Northern Ireland – There are an estimated 1,100 employees in the regional workforce, in around 250 businesses.

Pay scales in this industry are variable, so the following only provides an indication of the average annual salary paid to some full-time positions:

  • Animal Care Services £13,489
  • Animal Care Occupations £12,737

Gross annual salary of animal care business owners is between £20,000 - £24,999 and between £10,000 - £14,999 for employees.

Further information on salaries can be found on the Defra website.

Source: Lantra AACS LMI report 2010