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Animal Shelter Careers

What are Animal Shelters all about?
Shelters and rescues share a common purpose, improving the safety and quality of life for both animals and the public. They take a leadership role in building programs that are integrated with similar organizations and the larger community - developing views on pets, commitment, and population control. This can include educational programming or direct care, such as spay and neutering services. Most shelters share a common goals of reuniting owners with lost pets, adopting unowned animals, and providing care for a vulnerable population.

Unfortunately, shelter euthanasia continues to be one of the leading causes of death for companion animals. About 7.6 million unwanted pets enter U.S. animal shelters every year, and about 2.7 million of them are euthanized—roughly 31% of dogs and 41% of cats, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ( In some states, the majority of cats and dogs that enter a shelter are ultimately euthanized.

Adoption and Behavior
Rehoming animals is only one step in the adoption process; it can also be challenging to keep them there. One study indicated that 60% of adopted pets are no longer in their adoptive homes six months after their initial adoption, and 20% are returned back to the original shelter. Many pets are surrendered due to behavioral issues, and behavioral problems are the number one reason that dogs are returned to shelters after being adopted. However, the majority of these problems can be rectified through a combination of proper training and enrichment, together with appropriate owner education.

Positions Overview

The outlook for professionals working in animal care and service is excellent. Employment in these areas is expected to grow 15 percent over the next decade (source: US Department of Labor). Salaries vary greatly based on the specific field or employer.

Who hires animal shelter professionals? They may work for shelters and rescue organizations; alternatively, they may work under the direct supervision of a veterinary organization, a wildlife rehabilitation facility, or a variety of other organizations.

Sample positions include:

  • Animal caretakers

  • Shelter attendant

  • Veterinary assistant or technician

  • Veterinarian

  • Farm account manager

  • Sanctuary care manager

  • Pet adoption specialist

  • Kennel technician

  • Shelter/rescue manager

  • Animal trainer

  • Manager of volunteer services

  • Outreach coordinator

  • Adoption manager

  • Outreach coordinator

  • Operations manager


In many types of therapy (physical, occupational, psychology, social work) animals promote interaction between the client and the therapist. Animal interaction can be a powerful motivator allowing professionals to more quickly achieve their goals with the client.

Professional Associations

If you have a professional interest in Animal Shelter Management, you may want to explore one or more of these associations for additional information.

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