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Animal Care Attendant

Kaitiaki Kararehe

Animal care attendants care for animals in kennels, catteries, pet shops, veterinary practices, and research or animal care centres.


Animal attendants usually earn

$18-$19 per hour

Source: Wellington Institute of Technology – Animal Health and Husbandry, 2016.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as an animal care attendant are average as jobs regularly become available, but competition can be high.


Pay for animal care attendants varies depending on their qualifications and experience.

  • An unqualified, inexperienced worker is likely to start on the minimum wage or a little more.
  • An experienced animal care attendant can earn up to $19 an hour.

Source: Wellington Institute of Technology – Animal Health and Husbandry, 2016. 

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Animal care attendants may do some or all of the following:

  • feed, bathe, groom, and exercise animals
  • treat animals for minor injuries and illnesses under veterinary supervision
  • train animals and help to develop training programmes
  • clean, inspect and maintain animal enclosures and/or habitats
  • observe and record animal behaviour and assist with research projects
  • keep records and carry out office work.

Skills and knowledge

Animal care attendants need to have:

  • animal-handling skills and knowledge of training techniques
  • knowledge of animal diseases and care
  • an understanding of the Animal Welfare Act.

Working conditions

Animal care attendants:

  • may work 40 hours a week, including shift work and being on call. However, many animal attendants work part time, or on contract to help meet demand at busy times of the year
  • work in conditions that can be dirty and smelly, and may work with dangerous or diseased animals
  • may work outside in all weather conditions.

What's the job really like?

Craig Heberley

Craig Heberley

Animal Care Attendant

Animals – life's passion

"It takes a certain kind of person to decide to come to work and clean up dog poo all day. But if you’re really into what you’re doing and you’re pursuing your life’s passion then that’s just your kind of life. I’m animal mad and always wanted to work with animals."

Craig Heberley works for the SPCA, looking after dogs that have been abandoned, donated to the SPCA or need medical attention, and the aim is to get dogs re-homed.

Each day and each dog is different

"Each day is different. Every day has a basic pattern to it but I could be doing anything from feeding dogs, letting them out to play in the yard and cleaning their kennels, to giving people advice about their dog’s behavioural problems."

Love of animals is the reward

"Every time I connect families with dogs is a rewarding moment. Seeing the love and care in some families and watching them go the extra mile to welcome a dog into their family is amazing."

Animal care attendant video

Cynthia talks about her role as a kennel hand at Waglands Dogs' Holiday Retreat – 2.07 mins.

My name is Cynthia and I work as a kennel hand at Waglands Dogs’ Holiday Grooming Retreat.

So a typical day would be starting at 7.30am, getting the dogs out into their playgroups, into the yards so that they can toilet, and play and have a good time for the morning.

So while they’re doing that we are back in the kennels and we’re doing all the cleaning. So we’re cleaning up all the poos and wees and checking bedding, making sure that everything is clean and dry, refreshing water. We’ll pooper scoop. So once all the dogs come back in, we go back out and make sure the yards are clean, and then we start all over again.

It’s a noisy environment, so we need to be able to manage that. The more trustworthy and reliable and hardworking you are, the more responsibility you’re given and you can move on to different things within the business.

You have to be really dedicated and committed to the dogs and to their welfare, looking after them.

So sometimes you have to be a quick thinker in that not all dogs like each other. It’s good to be able to read the signs and to step in, and think quickly, change the situation before it escalates. So that’s really important, whether that’s taking a particular dog out of the yard, putting a dog into time out or just making sure they’re all getting on well.

Not every dog initially is going to be happy to be in this environment, particularly if they’re a new dog. So you have to be quite patient, and learn to get to know the dogs as individuals and what they like and what they don’t like.

I come from a background of working with animals. I have worked in a pet shop. I’ve always had lots of animals at home, and I’ve done some volunteer work for the SPCA, so I had a good general background. Have as much to do with animals as you can. Working for the SPCA, or HUHA or the zoo, whatever it is that interests you.

We all love dogs. Everybody who works here loves dogs. It is a big part of our day, having cuddles. Sometimes we quite often say, when mum and dad come to pick the dogs up, “We’ll keep her if you like!”

Entry requirements

There are no specific requirements to become an animal care attendant as you learn skills on the job.

However, some employers may prefer you to have a tertiary qualification in animal care and welfare such as the New Zealand Certificate in Animal Care. 

Secondary education

There are no specific secondary education requirements to become an animal care attendant. However, science subjects and English are useful.

Personal requirements

Animal care attendants need to be:

  • interested in the welfare of animals
  • good communicators, as they may have to deal with upset people
  • responsible and able to follow instructions
  • patient and calm.

Useful experience

Any paid or volunteer work with animals is useful for animal care attendants.

Physical requirements

Animal care attendants need to have a good level of fitness and strength, as they may need to do a lot of walking and some lifting of heavy animals and equipment.  

Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Animal care attendant vacancies come up regularly because the job is poorly paid, so people often stay in the role for a short time only. However, competition for jobs can be strong due to many people wanting to work with animals.

Volunteer work useful for animal care attendants

A good way to gain experience in this job is to start out doing volunteer work with animals at places such as animal shelters and welfare agencies. Temporary positions often come up in summer, which is kitten season.

A qualification can help you get a better paying job working with animals 

A qualification in animal care can help you negotiate a higher wage in your work as an animal care attendant, but it can also be a stepping stone to other related work such as veterinary nursing.  

Wide range of animal care attendant employers

Employers of animal care attendants include:

  • kennels and catteries
  • dog day care centres
  • animal shelters and welfare agencies
  • animal rescue and rehabilitation centres
  • pet stores
  • veterinary practices
  • aquariums and aviaries
  • nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries
  • animal control
  • working dog training facilities
  • pet transport companies.


  • Fawcett, M, programme co-ordinator and tutor, animal health and husbandry, WelTec, Careers New Zealand interview, March 2016. 
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Animal care attendants may complete further training to move into related occupations such as veterinary nursing or zookeeping. They can also progress to work in supervisory or managerial positions.

Animal care attendants may specialise in caring for a range of companion animals such as cats, dogs, rabbits or fish.

Last updated 2 April 2019