Animal Boarding Worker

The Job and What's Involved

Animal boarding workers care for animals staying in boarding or quarantine establishments. They are also known as kennel workers.

The majority of boarding establishments are provided for dogs and cats. However, there are also facilities available for other animals, such as rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets and parrots, in addition to smaller caged animals, such as hamsters, mice, rats and budgies.

Some establishments have space for just a few animals, while others, particularly those for dogs and cats, may accommodate around 100 at a time. Animal boarding workers' jobs may vary, but the main tasks usually include:

  • Maintaining an ambient kennel temperature.
  • Preparing food for the animals, including those on special diets.
  • Giving animals tablets or medicine.
  • Keeping accommodation clean and hygienic, changing bedding, sweeping out and removing waste.
  • Grooming dogs and cats and keeping them clean.
  • Exercising dogs by taking them for walks two or three times a day.
  • Making sure that cats and other animals have facilities in their pens for exercise.
  • Answering telephone calls and meeting visitors to the premises.

Animal boarding workers may also show owners and prospective customers around the premises and give advice on animal care.

Tools such as brushes, hoses or steam-cleaning machines are used to clean and sterilise the accommodation.

There may also be administration work to do. This includes taking telephone bookings, dealing with payments, and keeping records of vaccinations, diets, medications and any specific needs or behavioural problems. Records may be kept manually or on computer.

Animal boarding workers liaise closely with kennel owners or managers, other colleagues and vets.

Animal boarding workers work around 40 hours a week, sometimes longer if required. They often start early, from around 7.30am. Weekend and bank holiday work is often expected and organised on a rota basis. Part-time, seasonal and casual work is often available, as some boarding establishments need extra help during holiday periods.

Much of the work is outdoors in all weathers. Kennel areas can sometimes be quite cold and often noisy. The work involves regular dog walking and bending to clean out kennels and animal cages.

Starting salaries are usually in line with the national minimum wage. Experienced boarding workers may earn up to £12,000 or more. Animal boarding managers or supervisors may earn around £15,000 or more.

Some larger boarding establishments provide accommodation and work overalls and may pay extra for overtime worked.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are estimated to be around 590 boarding kennels throughout the UK employing over 2,700 people. Animal boarding workers are employed by private animal boarding businesses, and racing and breeding establishments. There are also job opportunities within charitable organisations, such as the RSPCA, The Dogs Trust and assistance dog training organisations, such as Dogs for the Disabled and Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.

Competition is often strong for full-time jobs. Many boarding establishments have part-time, seasonal and casual staff, and often volunteers.

Jobs may be advertised in local newspapers. The RSPCA website has a job vacancy section. Website's of some dog training and other independent organisations also give vacancy information.

Education and Training

There are no set academic qualifications required to become an animal boarding worker, but some employers may prefer people with GCSE's (A*-C), especially maths or English. Real enthusiasm and interest in working with small animals is very important. Experience of working in boarding establishments voluntarily or on work experience, and of owning a pet, is valuable.

Useful qualifications include:

  • BTEC Level 3 National Award, Certificate and Diploma in animal management.
  • Awards, Certificates and Diplomas in work-based animal care.

The Diploma in environmental and land-based studies is also a useful qualification. For more information visit www.diplomaelbs.co.uk

It may also be possible to enter this career through an appropriate Apprenticeship scheme where most of the training is on the job, working with a mentor to learn job-specific skills at the employer's premises. Additional skills and knowledge are provided by a local college or a specialist training provider.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

On-the-job training is given to new animal boarding workers by the manager or other experienced staff.

Animal boarding workers can work towards Diplomas in work-based animal care whilst employed, as achieving these qualifications includes workplace assessment.

There is also an NPTC Level 3 Certificate in the operational principles of kennels and catteries. This qualification was developed with those responsible for the day-to-day running of kennels and catteries in mind, focusing on areas such as the care and welfare of dogs and cats, animal behaviour and handling and veterinary emergencies and first aid. The course comprises four core units and one optional unit and is assessed by written examinations.

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As an ambulance technician you would respond to accident and emergency calls, as well as a range of planned and unplanned non-emergency cases. You would usually work in a team, providing support to a paramedic during the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of patients at the scene of an incident and during hospital transfers.

You may use life saving skills as part of your day-to-day work.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Animal boarding workers should:

  • Be confident working with a range of dogs and other animals.
  • Be caring and patient.
  • Be reliable and able to act on their own initiative.
  • Be able to calm anxious and nervous animals.
  • Have a good awareness of health and safety issues.
  • Be practical and prepared to deal with dirt and waste.
  • Have good communication skills.
  • Work well alone and as part of a team.
  • Enjoy working outdoors in all weathers.

Your Long Term Prospects

Promotion prospects may be limited in small boarding facilities. There may sometimes be opportunities in larger ones to progress to animal boarding supervisor or manager.

Animal boarding workers wishing to develop their skills can work towards gaining relevant qualifications for animal training, breeding or RSPCA inspection work. Some animal boarding workers, with the necessary skills and experience, may open their own animal boarding business.

Get Further Information

Canine Partners, Mill Lane, Heyshott,
Midhurst, West Sussex GU29 0ED
Tel: 08456 580 480
Website: www.caninepartners.co.uk

Dogs for the Disabled, The Frances Hay Centre,
Blacklocks Hill, Banbury OX17 2BS
Tel: 01295 252600
Website: www.dogsforthedisabled.org

Dogs Trust, 17 Wakley Street, London EC1V 7RQ
Tel: 020 7837 0006
Website: www.dogstrust.org.uk

Guide Dogs for the Blind Association,
Reading Road, Burghfield Common, Reading RG7 3YG
Tel: 0118 983 5555
Website: www.gdba.org.uk

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, The Grange, Wycombe Road,
Saunderton, Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire HP27 9NS
Tel: 01844 348100
Website: www.hearingdogs.org.uk

Lantra, Lantra House, Stoneleigh Park, Coventry CV8 2LG
Tel: 0845 707 8007
Websites: www.lantra.co.uk www.lantracoursefinder.co.uk and www.afuturein.com

Pet Care Trust, Bedford Business Centre,
170 Mile Road, Bedford MK42 9TW
Tel: 01234 273933
Website: www.petcare.org.uk

RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater,
Horsham, West Sussex RH13 9RS
Tel: 0300 1234 555
Website: www.rspca.org.uk

Support Dogs, 21 Jessops Riverside,
Brightside Lane, Sheffield S9 2RX
Tel: 0114 261 7800
Website: www.support-dogs.org.uk

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