Animal Career Secrets: The Animal Industry & How to Get the Competitive Edge

In this post at Animal Career Secrets readers learn about the differences between the animal fields and how to get the competitive edge. All content copyrighted 2007 by Diana L Guerrero. Some rights reserved.

It was a relief to leave the private animal facility and animal acting world but when I landed at the “Harvard of animal trainers” it didn’t seem much different—except for that I was now accepted into the zoo realm.

Most people think that if you work with animals that you know everyone in the field. They also think that all the different realms of the animal industry are similar—they are not.

As animal trainers we were glorified in some circles but were snubbed in others. Believe it or not, at one time the zoo industry looked down on private animal facilities (and in some circles they still do) even though most zoological parks started as private menageries that evolved into the facilities you see today.

I wrote an animal behavior column for animal professionals for about ten years. When I decided to write about a privately owned primate the wrath of the readership reared up—but no bothered to talk to me about it! In the end I dedicated an entire column to why, as an animal behavior consultant, I would help someone who had a captive exotic animal as a pet.

Also, just because you work with captive wildlife doesn’t mean that you will interface with others. Marine mammal trainers are in their own industry just as the primatologists are.

In the animal training world, the horse people don’t usually interface with the dog world or the cat fancy unless they work for the movie studios. If you take a look into the dog world you will find that service dogs, therapy dogs, search and rescue, agility, obedience, and other specialty trainers don’t all mix either.

So, you see things can get really confusing which is why I wanted you to answer some of those questions in my earlier posts. The important point is that there really is not a blanket “animal industry” of one size fits all.

Ultimately, my decision to go to college for animal training and behavior management was a good one. The academic training and rigorous demands of the program came with a gold seal of approval.

At the time I beat out 1300 applicants for my spot and once in the elite group was able to meet and interact with industry professionals from around the world. The seal of approval allowed me to enter the gates of zoos, oceanariums, and other animal facilities as a colleague—and I was treated as an up and coming professional.

But that was not all; I worked my tush off and began networking so I would become known to industry leaders. It worked pretty well—but it was not really intentional—I was passionate about my career and very driven to make it a reality.

So, my point here is that although I have stressed that an apprenticeship program is really vital to becoming a good animal person, you also should get some academic training under your belt, too. The collegiate experience will give you tools and understanding that will take you beyond what the visceral experience gets you.

Basically, you get the competitive edge.

Diana L Guerrero is an animal career specialist and has extensive experience in many areas of the animal world. A well known animal expert, she has worked professionally with animals for over thirty years. Guerrero is the author of several books and the host of the syndicated, Ark Animal Answers.

Animal Career Secrets Explores the Unusual Animal Career of Pet Funeral Director

This Animal Career Secrets post explores the unusual animal careers within the pet memorial and pet funeral field. All content copyrighted 2007 by Diana L Guerrero. Some rights reserved.

Oliver Dingwell conducted his first pet funeral, which commemorated the unfortunate passing of Freddy the Frog, when he was just six years old [read more about Oliver Dingwell… ] but other than the fact that Oliver’s is a whopping twelve years old, the career path isn’t too unusual—any more.

The 1900s were significant as animals and pets moved from utilitarian roles and workers into the homes to become valued family members. Pet cemeteries and burials began to become more common right at the turn of the century.

In fact, Hartsdale Pet Cemetery has the distinction of being one of the oldest established pet cemeteries in the United States. Hartsdale Canine Cemetery was originally established in 1896 by a prominent veterinarian and was one of a few early trend setting businesses in the pet cemetery and pet crematoria fields.

However, pet burial services have a much longer history. For instance, the National History Museum in Los Angeles estimates that the presence of pets in human burials began between 14, 000 and 9,000 years ago.

In my interview with Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist with the Cairo Museum, she said that animal mummification reached its pinnacle of popularity between 664-525 BCE. There was an evolution from animals being interred in the tombs of their owners, or with their owners, to that of animal specific burial grounds—and some even warranted their own tombs.

In my research for Blessing of the Animals (ISBN 1402729677) I found that many of the newest trends really took hold in the 1990s, but that early innovators began holding ceremonies and celebrations as early as the 1970s.

Pet services in the pet burial and pet memorial field that are gaining momentum include pet hospice worker, pet funeral director, and pet bereavement counselor. I believe that this field is still at the early stages and will only increase as the numbers of pets within households age and their status as valued furry family members solidifies.

Because the industry is still pretty new, just what qualifications you will need are not clear. The academic training falls under Mortuary Science (no, I am not kidding) where the minimum is a Bachelors degree. There are a few US programs available to animal career seekers but these are not specifically animal oriented. I just received a special report from the industry concerning pet trends so check back because I’ll put this in a special report about the pet burial industry in the near future.

Most workers in the field of memorial or burial services state that it is very rewarding and it must be since the average funeral director salary is estimated to be an average of about $45,000 a year according to the US Board of Labor estimate.

Leanne McMahon (Read more about Leanne McMahon) is a pet funeral director who said, “Simply put, I believe I have the best job in the world. I believe that I’m helping families, particularly when they need that help.”

Today, there are a couple of professional organizations specifically for pet cemetery and crematoria businesses. If you are interested in an animal career find out who the members are in your area. Leave me a comment because I’d be happy to conduct interviews, record them, and post them for you if you have specific questions.

Founded in 1971, the International Association of Pet Cemeteries & Crematories (IAOPCC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of pet cemeteries through public awareness programs.

The Association of Private Pet Cemeteries & Crematoria is the largest and longest established pet bereavement trade association within the United Kingdom and set the standards for the cremation and burial of pets.


Diana L Guerrero is an animal career specialist and has extensive experience in many areas of the animal world. A well known animal expert, she has worked professionally with animals for over thirty years. Guerrero is the author of several books and the host of the syndicated, Ark Animal Answers.