Throughout the ages humans have depended on animals for service, food, and companionship. In modern times, animals have even played a crucial role in research settings where diseases are studied and drug therapies are developed.
Veterinary medicine and animal care focus on the provision of health care, surgery, and preventive services for a variety of animal species. Veterinarians and veterinary technicians address health emergencies as well as provide routine medical care. Animal care workers tend to the daily needs of pets and livestock. They feed, water, groom, bathe, and exercise the animals.
Veterinary medicine is practiced in a number of settings, with workers often exposed to biological, chemical, physical, and psychological hazards. Veterinarians may provide medical treatment to household pets or may focus on a specific livestock or marine species such as cattle or dolphins. Veterinarians are especially needed in the developing world to combat famine caused by livestock diseases. Vaccination programs are particularly important in these areas to control zoonotic disease-induced pandemics, such as avian flu or the Ebola virus, which can quickly spread globally via modern transportation.
In addition to the obvious types of jobs, such as veterinarian, zookeeper, animal control worker, stable hand and groomer, and animal trainer, other less known workers in this industry include therapy animal trainers, meat and food safety inspectors, animal food researchers, and pet store workers.
Several current trends account for the faster than average job growth in this industry. According to a recent survey by the American Pet Products Association, the number of households owning a pet has reached nearly 80 million, or 65 percent of U.S. households, its highest level in two decades. This ownership trend has fueled the need for veterinarians and animal care workers. In 2015, Americans spent more than $15 billion on veterinary care services.
Another recent movement is animal-assisted therapy (AAT), a rehabilitation treatment involving animals to improve a patients' cognitive or social functioning. For example, in an effort to improve their clients’ quality of life, some nursing homes are employing ATT to provide residents with an increased sense of security, better communication, and, in some instances, a slight decrease in dementia. ATT is also being used to help people with autism develop their social, communication, and emotional skills. In these settings, therapy dogs are often seen as a bridge from an autistic individual’s private inner world to help them relate better to their surroundings.