More than 23 million American families adopted at least one cat or dog during the pandemic, according to the ASPCA. People were home, and adding a new fuzzy friend was a good idea. Today, however, people are back to work and school and are looking for people to take care of their pets while they aren’t home. The numbers back this up: The global pet sitting market is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 11.52% between 2022 and 2030. All these new additions also require grooming, training, feeding and more. Combined, these needs translate into a huge opportunity for anyone who loves cats and dogs and wants to find jobs working with animals. Keep scrolling to learn how you can cash in.
Is a job working with animals right for you?
Whether you want to be a pet sitter, walk dogs for a living, or bake tasty treats for four-legged family members, you must be an animal lover, says Katherine Cronin, an animal welfare scientist and the director of Animal Behavior & Welfare Consulting at the Lincoln State Zoo, which provides career coaching for people interested in pursuing jobs with animals.
“A common personality thread is that the person loves animals, as simple as that sounds,” she says. But people skills are important, too, since you’ll be dealing with the owners almost as much as you’re dealing with the animals.
You should also be patient, kind and, depending on the job, strong enough to lift, pull and carry things. For example, a recent job ad for a veterinary technician stated, “Work requires lifting, carrying and restraining animals.” The ability to remain cool under pressure is another must.
Not into warm and fuzzy? Consider taking care of cold and slimy! There are jobs out there for people who want to be aquarium maintenance specialists and amphibian caregivers. Freshwater fish, for example, are the most popular pet in the United States. These jobs require you to have basic knowledge of how to take care of tanks. You’ll also need a willingness to get your hands dirty as many of these assignments require you to feed your charges things such as live worms and crickets and other small fish.
What you need for jobs working with animals
There are a few things you’ll need to purchase before jumping into your pet-related job. One of the most important things you’ll want to consider is insurance. Animals of all kinds can be unpredictable, so you’ll want protection for several reasons. If you’re caring for an animal in your home and it wrecks your couch, or you’re walking a dog and it bites someone, you want to be protected from liability. Even people who take care of fishtanks or reptiles can get into trouble if an expensive pet dies or they spill water in someone’s home.
Some sites such as Rover.com cover dogwalkers and other caregivers for up to $25,000 in vet care bills and property damage caused by the pet sitter or walker. Care.com suggests its dogwalkers and sitters buy outside general liability insurance as well as other types of coverage to protect themselves.
Once you’ve decided on which type of animal job you want there will be other things you may want to purchase, too. For instance, if you’re going to start baking pet treats to sell you’ll need to equip your kitchen so you have what you need to whip up batches of doggie birthday cakes. Dog walkers will want their own leashes to keep in their pockets as well as treats, doggie poop bags, and the right clothing since you’ll be doing your job in all types of weather.
How to find jobs working with animals
Finding your first pet sitting or dog walking assignment should be fairly easy, says Maressa Brown, a senior editor for Care.com, an online marketplace for people to find various types of caregivers. She suggests looking at job boards, signing up on sites designed for pet parents and even going analog.
“Don’t forget about the tried and true, old-fashioned way of putting up posters around your neighborhood. Get crafty and think about where pet owners will be frequenting like pet stores, vet offices or pet groomers,” she says.
You can also include a link to your online profile in your social media bios and using hashtags for jobs in your area like “#DogWalkersInNYC” and joining online community groups like a local animal lover group or neighborhood Facebook group to build up your network.
Finding more traditional animal-related employment should also be fairly easy, too. Since the Covid pet boom veterinary clinics, pet shelters, and pet stores are facing worker shortages. While some jobs may require certificates or degrees — in New York City, for example, people who have a Certificate in Animal Care and Handling are in high demand — others do not.
If you’re interested in jobs working with animals, you’ll want to do an intake for each job you get. If you’re working with traditional pets, once you get past the basics — what the pets’ names are, what breed they are and how old they are — drill down into specifics. You’ll want to know if they up-to-date on shots, whether they have any fears or issues (do they look for every opportunity to run away, for instance), whether they are microchipped, and all the specifics about food and treats.
How much jobs with animals pay
Nicole Ellis, a certified professional dog trainer with Rover.com says rates for pet-related jobs vary, but you’ll earn more if you live closer to a big city and, like other jobs, the more time you put in the more you’re going to make. “If you can only do weekends, it’s going to be different than somebody who wants to do 24/7, dog walking and pet care. They’re going to make quite a bit more money, and they can actually sustainably live off of that.”
Career site Ziprecruiter.com says the pay range for dog sitters is between $10 and $26, with the national average of about $17 per hour. Dog walkers can earn between $7.30 and $28 per hour, according to the site, while veterinary assistants can earn between $11 and $26 per hour. Aquarium maintenance workers can earn between about $12 and $27 per hour.
Getting these jobs will take enthusiasm and commitment, says Care.com’s Brown.
“To land the job, show the pet parent that you’re excited to meet and care for their pet. Remember that you’re taking care of someone’s furry family member, so they’ll want someone caring and loving to know with complete certainty that their pet will stay safe and healthy with you,” she explains.
Real-life inspiration for jobs working with animals
Read on to see how two women turned their love of animals into extra cash.
1. “I earn $80,000 a year caring for pets!”
“Ten years ago, I was laid off from my corporate job. I was close to retirement age but still needed to earn an income,” says Jeanne Crockett of North Carolina. “Years before, I had worked with horses, and when I was younger, I had a part-time job at a veterinarian’s office, plus I’ve always loved animals, so I decided to start a business offering dog walking and pet sitting services.”
“In order to learn as much as I could, I joined Pet Sitters International for $155 ($145 + $10 application fee). I also took an entrepreneurship course at the local college and attended roundtable events at the local small business center. I purchased insurance, applied for business grants and hired someone to design my website. I spread the word by writing editorials in the local newspaper and telling local animal stores about my business, Crockett’s Critter Care.”
“I care for dogs, cats, birds, fish and rabbits, and serve a 12-mile radius in my county. After several years of running the business by myself, I became so busy, I hired eight staff members. I’m so passionate about this, not only because of my love for pets, but also because I’ve been able to give others the same opportunity to do what they love. The money I make—about $80,000 a year—pays the bills, but most goes back into the business.”
2. “I make up to $4,000 a month selling dog treats!”
“I’ve always been a dog lover and have volunteered in shelters and provided pet therapy in nursing homes,” says Nancy Thompson of Colorado. “When I was laid off from my job 14 years ago, I took on several jobs to make ends meet, including dog-sitting. Around the same time, my mom gifted me a cookbook with dog treat recipes. I’m not a baker, but I decided to give them a try. I shared the treats with my clients, and since they were a hit, a friend suggested I sell them, so I launched Trail Dog Treats.”
“I started by selling the treats at a local farmers market, set up booths at races that I participated in and passed out samples at shelter events. When I decided to try selling them in stores, I connected with other bakers who helped me change the recipe so they would have a longer shelf life without any preservatives. I also had the treats approved by the Department of Agriculture. I went door-to-door to get the treats sold in local boutiques, and after a lot of research and learning — such as how to create and print barcodes — I was able to get them into regional Whole Foods stores.”
“I bake all the treats in my home. They’re wheat-, soy- and dairy-free, use only human-grade ingredients and come in four flavors: carrot applesauce, granola molasses, peanut butter oatmeal and sunflower flax vanilla. They sell for $8.75 to $10.50. Every month is different, but I can make up to $4,000 — money that goes back into the business that I love so much.”
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