Kennels Essex

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kennel worker

The work

Kennel workers look after dogs and cats in kennels or catteries.

They work in:

  • boarding kennels, which provide care for animals when their owners are away for a short time
  • organisations such as the RSPCA, which look after stray, abandoned or mistreated animals
  • kennels run by organisations like the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association
  • breeding or quarantine kennels.

The work involves:

  • preparing food and feeding the animals
  • keeping animals clean, grooming them and treating parasites and fleas
  • exercising dogs in a yard or taking them for walks 
  • cleaning out kennels and cages
  • looking after animals who become ill or distressed.

Some kennel workers also:

  • keep records, take bookings and handle payments
  • advise owners on looking after their animals
  • show unwanted animals to possible new owners.

Some kennels specialise in racing, breeding, hunt, quarantine or training.

Hours and Environment

Kennel workers work about 40 hours a week, usually starting early in the morning. Hours vary, and weekend and night work is common. It might be possible to work part-time. 

The work is physically active, with a lot of bending to clean out kennels, and regular walking to exercise dogs. It involves working in noisy, dirty or smelly conditions. Kennel workers have to work outdoors in all weathers.

Skills and Interests

To be a kennel worker you should be:

  • fit and healthy
  • confident about handling animals, and able to calm them
  • able to take initiative or work in a team
  • observant and alert to changes in animals' behaviour
  • able to take responsibility.

Entry

To be a kennel worker you will usually have to be at least 16 (18 for working for Guide Dogs for the Blind).

You will not need any qualifications for most kennel jobs, but some organisations do ask for them. For example, to work for Guide Dogs for the Blind you will need three GCSEs (A-D)/S grades (1-4) (including English) or the equivalent.

It will be useful if you have experience of working with animals, either paid or voluntary. Voluntary work is a useful way to get experience and show employers that you are really enthusiastic and interested in working with animals.

To find out what opportunities for volunteering there might be in your area you could try:

  • Volunteering England or Volunteer Scotland (contact details are in the Further Information section)
  • the animal welfare organisations listed in Further information
  • Yellow Pages for other local organisations who may need volunteers.

You could do a full-time college course before applying for your first job. These include:

  • EDEXCEL BTEC First Certificate/Diploma in Animal Care - the course lasts for one year. Check with colleges for entry requirements
  • EDEXCEL BTEC National Certificate/Diploma in Animal Management (Care) - the course lasts for two years. You will usually need four GCSEs (A-C)/S grades (1-3), preferably including one science subject or equivalent qualifications or relevant work experience
  • the OCN National Small Animal Care Certificate. You can do this by distance learning with the Animal Care College if you are in a relevant paid or voluntary job - please see Further Information for contact details for the college.

In Scotland you can study full time for animal care options in Scottish Group Awards at Levels 2 and 3 in Land-Based Industries.

The armed services take on civilian kennel workers. You are expected to complete a Basic Dog Course at the Defence Animal Centre in Leicestershire.

You may need a driving licence for some jobs.

Training

When you have a kennel job you may be able to work towards NVQs/SVQs in Animal Care at levels 1 and 2. These are available at colleges and through the College of Animal Welfare. This college also offers a range of other courses. Please see the Further Information section for contact details.

You may be able to develop your career either by gaining experience and working towards NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in Animal Care, or studying part-time for qualifications such as:

  • EDEXCEL BTEC National Certificate/Diploma in Animal Management (Care)
  • EDEXCEL BTEC National Award in Animal Management (Kennel and Cattery Management).

Apprenticeships may be available for those under the age of 24. In England these are currently Apprenticeships (level 2) and Advanced Apprenticeships (level 3). To find out more about these, visit www.apprenticeships.org.uk

Apprenticeships may be different in other areas. For further information see Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland

Opportunities

There are only about 3,500 people working in kennels across the UK, and there is often a lot of competition for vacancies. 

Less workers are needed In quarantine kennels now that fewer dogs have to spend time in quarantine. 

Once you have enough experience you might be able to:

  • become a supervisor or manager
  • set up your own kennels or cattery
  • use your experience to move into other animal careers, such as dog trainer, RSPCA or SSPCA inspector or veterinary nurse.

Annual Income

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Salaries are likely to start from around the National Minimum Wage.
Experienced/qualified staff may earn from around £12,000 to around £15,000.

Some larger kennels provide ‘live-in’ accommodation.