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Would You Like to Be a Vet Assistant at an Animal Shelter?

Published: May 22, 2019 | Updated: October 26, 2020

If you love animals, a career as Veterinary Assistant could be a great choice for you. You’ll be around animals and the people who love them every day. And there are lots of other reasons to love being a veterinary assistant. Plus, you can choose from a variety of places to work, including animal shelters.

But before you choose to start your Veterinary Assistant career at an animal shelter, there are some things to consider:


Your Workload Can Vary by Season

Animal shelters are busy places, but certain seasons, holidays and events can impact the pace of work. For example, the week around the Fourth of July is traditionally the busiest time of year for shelters because of scared dogs that run away when they hear fireworks or escape as people go in and out of the house at parties. And shelters are especially busy with cats in springtime and summer because of strays who have kittens during the warmer months, or even pet cats unexpectedly giving birth.


You’ll Care for Abused and Sick Animals

As an animal lover, this could be especially difficult for you, but it’s also important. Shelters are often the community resource that people depend on to take in sick, abused, and abandoned animals. As a Vet Assistant at a shelter, you may have to fill out the initial paperwork when someone brings the animal in, help the veterinarian with assessments, prep the animal for surgery, and care for it after. You might feel angry that someone could hurt an animal, but it will be important for you to focus on your job to work with the shelter’s team to help rehabilitate the animal and find it a good home.


You’ll Have to Clean Up After the Animals…

Cats and dogs are cute. Their messes, not so much. As a Vet Assistant at a shelter, you’ll have to take the good with the not-so-good, because it could be your job to clean the cages and kennels. This is a common part of the job, but since a shelter usually has so many more animals than a veterinary practice or hospital, you’ll likely have more cages to clean, more often than if you worked at another facility.


…And Get to Play With Them!

Since animals can be at shelters for anywhere from days to even years, they need to get their exercise and playtime in while they’re there. You might need to take them for walks or play fetch and other games with them. A fun part of the job you’ll both enjoy!


Animals Are at Shelters for Different Lengths of Time

Some animals could be at the shelter for a few days, while others struggle to find a forever home and live at the shelter for years. You need to be prepared for either reality so that you don’t get too attached to an animal who is quickly adopted or feel too sad about an animal who’s there for years. Instead, you’ll need to focus on your job and the fact that you are doing your part to help every animal in your care live their best life possible.


Even Animals at ‘No-Kill’ Shelters Can Be Euthanized

If you work at a shelter—even one that is labeled “no-kill”—you need to be prepared for the reality that animals will be put down, and you may need to assist the veterinarian during the procedure. Animals who are euthanized usually have medical or temperament issues that make them unadoptable.


If you think an animal shelter could be an ideal place for you to work, contact Charter College today to learn about our Veterinary Assistant program in Vancouver, WA and Oxnard, CA. You could complete our program in as few as 10 months.