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Shelter Vet Tech: Top Jobs and Duties

September 11, 2014 Veterinary Technology, General 0 Comments

Few work settings are more challenging than animal shelters, which tend to have a great need for trained, compassionate professionals. If you are seriously committed to the welfare of animals, there's no better way to exercise that desire than by working as a shelter vet tech.

Shelter Vet Tech: Top Jobs and DutiesVeterinary Technician vs. Technologist

Although some may refer to both technicians and technologists as "vet techs," these two occupations are not the same. A technologist is a scientist with a four-year degree who works primarily in research and industrial settings. Working mostly at private veterinary clinics and animal shelters, veterinary technicians perform the tasks most people associate with vet techs. You will do wonders with your two-year degree as you provide care for dogs, cats, livestock and other pets in need.

Animal Shelters

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), there are 13,600 community animal shelters in the United States. Every year, nearly 4 million dogs and 3.4 million cats enter one of these shelters. Most shelters employ vet techs and rely heavily on untrained volunteers. Over 2.7 million animals are euthanized, while another 2.7 million are adopted.

The Shelter Vet Tech

A shelter's need for skilled professionals is profound, and as a vet tech, you may find yourself working in a variety of capacities. Much of your role will depend on staffing and the workload. Since the job is 24/7, you might work nights, weekends and some holidays.

On a normal day, you arrive and receive a report from whomever you are assisting or relieving. It isn't mundane work, and from there, practically anything can happen. In addition to the unexpected, you may find yourself doing many of the following day-to-day tasks:

  • Working in the reception area triaging new arrivals. This usually involves paperwork and inspecting the animal to decide whether it needs urgent medical attention, isolation or containment until it is retrieved by its owner, put up for adoption or euthanized.
  • Working as a nurse by providing emergency care and administering medications and treatments.
  • Working in the capacity of a lab technician by collecting fecal, blood and urine samples and performing a variety of laboratory work and diagnostic tests.
  • Assisting a veterinary physician as an anesthesiologist or surgical technician.
  • Keeping records and reports accurate and up to date.
  • Working with the public to reunite lost pets with their owners, educating owners about treatment needs, giving discharge instructions, collecting fees and providing information and education.
  • Being the principle advocate for the welfare of not only the animals you work with every day, but also for issues that benefit them on a larger scale. For example, you may manage a local campaign to raise awareness about the plight of homeless animals.
  • Being responsible for training and supervising volunteers and other staff.
  • One of your more difficult tasks as a vet tech is euthanizing animals and appropriately disposing of their remains.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a great need for vet techs. Between 2012 and 2022, the number of vet technicians and technologist jobs will increase by 30 percent — over twice as fast as the national average for all jobs combined — with a national median salary of $30,290 annually. However, your greater reward as a shelter vet tech will be the thousands of moments when you make a difference for animals or the owners who love them.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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