What to consider if you want to work with animals for a living

When you have made the decision to live for animals, there are a few lifestyle changes you will have to undertake as well as conditions that you have to be prepared to face. It definitely sounds appealing to have a job working with animals, but are you really up for the task? I give you a peek into the daily job of a Rehabilitator.

Come sunshine or rain, you need to work. Animals live in nature and as such you have to work in nature most of the time. I myself, do not mind the heat and the sun beating down on you while you fight fatigue trying to get your tasks done, but the rain and the cold can upset me sometimes. You have to be willing to work in any condition, and quite often either freeze to death or burn to a crisp. It’s not an easy feat to overcome your desire for a stable climate, but it is necessary. You will be physically uncomfortable for most of your day, hopefully adapting to some degree.

You only physically work with the animals 20 – 40% of the day. Being an animal handler is only part of the job. The real work comes when you have to do animal husbandry. Cleaning cages, washing bowls, providing clean water, prepping food, clearing areas, cleaning kitchens, etc. is all in a day’s work and takes up most of your daily routine.

Be prepared to work during public holidays and weekends. Animals, unlike humans, don’t take a vacation. Their needs need to be met 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Centres usually have worked out schedules to attribute off days and make sure you rotate shifts with your colleagues to ensure you have a break. Your off days don’t always fall on weekends when your family or friends are off, and is usually spread out or put together, meaning you can have one off day per week or have to work three consecutive weeks before having a week to yourself. Public holidays are usually the busiest time for a rehab, which would require all hands on deck. You will probably have to work over Christmas and other popular holidays, taking compensation provided by the company.

Saving animals requires killing animals. This sounds extremely contradicting, but what did you expect when working with carnivores? All jobs have their pro’s and con’s, and as an animal lover, I struggle daily with this task. It never gets easier to kill a chicken, rabbit, or game to feed to the meat eaters and requires a strong mind.

Do you think your up for the task? A job in the animal industry can be a tough one, but as long as there is passion and drive, every day is filled with happiness.

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Can a cow be a lecturer?

This is a story how a cow taught me a valuable lesson how important it is to trust your colleagues.

As the sweat beaded down my face, I stood under a shade tree in that hot summer day trying to focus on my professor’s words as he tried to explain how to immobilise a fully grown Holstein cow. A beast fierce in strength stood beside him in the crush, waiting to be the subject of example. He then chose two volunteers to help him, and with precision and grace, he swiftly put the halter on the animal. He then continued to explain why he chose volunteers instead of asking for them. “It is important to know and trust the people you are working with. One small mistake could be the difference between life and death,” he said.

His words were barely cold when he grouped us into units of 3 to practice the manoeuvre he just showed us. He grouped strangers together after preaching the importance of knowing your team mates and now, there I was, with two strangers I should trust with my life? How ironic…

It was decided that the other two would try and restrain the cow while I execute putting the halter on. They had her steady and confirmed that she was not able to move. I reached through the poles of the crush to slip the halter over her nose when one of my team mates lost his grip. The cow pulled away and slammed my hand onto one of the poles while my hand was locked onto her face trying o put on the halter.

Swollen, blue and unable to close my hand, I still felt the pangs of what had happened. Thank you, dear cow for teaching me that a teacher speaks out of experience.

What to do when you save a wild animal?

It’s quite often that a good Samaritan comes by to save an animal’s day, but what follows afterward will impact the animal’s life forever. It’s easy enough for most to look after an abandoned dog or cat, but what happens when a wild, or rather unfamiliar animal is rescued by a passer-by?

More often than not, we as humans like to take fate into our own hands rather than seek the correct aid. There are many cases of which I remember, especially with owls, where we had to rescue them from said “rescuers”.

In one event such as this, we were contacted about an owl that was found and needed to be rehabilitated. After a short while, the contact called again and said it wasn’t necessary to collect the owl any more as she found someone else with experience of rehabilitating the owl. After further investigation and questioning we found that the person to rehabilitate the bird was actually the person who rescued the owl. With no past experience and purely selfish driven, this person thought she could successfully rehabilitate the owl, and it was also believed that she would keep the owl as a pet after numerous pictures that she posted on social media, showing off a WILD owl to her entire class. This not only shows the greed of humans, but the inability to put the animal’s needs before their own. For a person to put an animal under so much stress as to show it off to the class takes a special kind of foolishness. Luckily, we got there just in time…

There were a lot of cases, not only of this, but of people who tried rearing owlets who ended up with metabolic diseases such as rickets, due to incorrect diet. Only after the owls developed these problems, they sought out help for them, by which time it was too late.

All of us should understand that there are people who dedicate their lives to the rehabilitation of animals. Not only that, but you may also be at risk for breaking the law. In South Africa, it is illegal to keep any indigenous wildlife as a pet.

It takes a good person to rescue an animal in need, but it takes a great person to be selfless enough to give the animal what it requires by seeking the correct support.

When you have saved an animal, always take it to the vet first or research a rescue centre near you that specializes taking care of that species. This way you will ensure the animal is safely returned to his habitat.