When I Grow Up I Want To . . .

How many times when you were in school or just venturing out into the world on your own, did you ask yourself, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” A fireman, ballerina, scientist, doctor, policeman - certainly options like these passed through your mind more than once as you tried to figure out one of life’s biggest choices. For those who recognize at an early age their passion for animals, they may dream about saving animals when they get bigger, but the options and path are not always as clear as that of the future fireman or the ballerina.

Being a veterinarian is what usually comes to mind first as people begin to explore their options for a career that benefits animals. Then there is the job of a veterinary technician. If the field of veterinary medicine is not for you, then what other choices are there. Of course there are the jobs that provide services for animals, such as groomers, boarding kennel attendants or dog trainers, in addition to working in a pet store that not only sells pet care products but can offer services too. These are great places to start, but in time you might want to move on to something that provides opportunities to save the lives of animals.

Working in an animal shelter may come to mind, but accompanying this idea for many, is the fear of coming face to face with animals on a daily basis, that might not get adopted and end up being euthanized. But there are other animal organizations that you might consider working for that do not operate shelters. These organizations are involved in such things as humane education, passing legislation to protect animals, preserving the habitat of animals living in the wild, rescuing animals in times of crisis, promoting spay and neuter to reduce pet overpopulation and the list goes on. You can find organizations doing these things in your community, state or on the national and international level. A great resource for learning more about animal organizations throughout the world can be found at www.worldanimal.net.

There are a number of television programs that spotlight the job of an animal control or humane officer. Television can make these jobs look exciting, which they can be, but there is a lot of heartbreak and anger that builds up towards people that mistreat animals. It takes a certain kind of person to be able to do the jobs that enforce the laws protecting animals. Some animal control agencies or humane societies have ride along programs where you actually get to spend several hours with an animal control or humane officers as they do their job. This opportunity can definitely give you some insight into the challenges of this job and whether it’s the career choice for you or not. Another option along these lines is an attorney that specializes in animal welfare laws. If the idea of fighting for animals excites you, this could be a perfect choice for you.

If a career working with larger animals is more of what you had in mind, then working with therapy or race horses, might be options to explore. The possibility of working in a zoo can sound intriguing, but you may ask how in the world do you get the experience to be hired to take care of lions and tigers and bears? There are college courses in zoology and if you live near a zoo you might want to see if they have a volunteer program. If they do, it’s not likely you will be working directly with the animals, but it is a foot in the door as well as a way to observe the experts at work. An option to avoid, if looking for a job that protects animals, is working with circus animals or any other entertainment venue in which animals are exploited and not cared for properly.

One of the best ways to “try out” a career working for animals is to see if there is a way you can volunteer first. Many animal welfare organizations cannot hire the number of people they need to get all the work done, so they rely a lot on volunteers. This opportunity will allow you to see firsthand what goes on behind the scenes to make this a better world for both domesticated and wild animals. If you like what you are doing, and you perform your duties well, there is a very good chance that a volunteer job may eventually lead to a paid position. This has been the career path for a lot of people currently working in the animal welfare movement, making huge differences on a daily basis for animals.

What we do for a living, takes up a lot of our time, for a lot of years. For this reason, it’s far better to be doing something that you love. Therefore, if you are someone committed to improving the lives of animals, why not get paid to put your passion to work?

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