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Animal Handler

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Synonyms: Animal attendant; animal breeder; animal caretaker; animal husbandry worker; animal keeper; animal laboratory worker; animal propagator; animal raiser; farmworker, animal; farmworker, livestock; etc.

Job profile

Definition and/or description


Performs any combination of following duties to attend animals, such as mice, canaries, guinea pigs, mink, dogs and monkeys, on farms and in facilities, such as kennels, pounds, hospitals and laboratories. Feeds and waters animals according to schedules. Cleans and disinfects cages, pens and yards and sterilizes laboratory equipment and surgical instruments. Examines animals for signs of illness and treats them according to instructions. Transfers animals between quarters. Adjusts controls to regulate temperature and humidity of animals’ quarters. Records information according to instructions, such as genealogy, diet, weight, medications, food intake and licence number. Anaesthetizes, inoculates, shaves, bathes, clips and grooms animals. Repairs cages, pens or fenced yards. May kill and skin animals, such as fox and rabbit, and pack pelts in crates. May be designated according to place worked such as Dog-Pound Attendant (government ser.); Farmworker, Fur (agriculture); Helper, Animal Laboratory (pharmaceut.); Kennel Attendant (agriculture); Pet Shop Attendant (retail trade); Veterinary-hospital Attendant (medical ser.) (DOT).

Related and specific occupations


Abattoir worker; butcher; farmer/cattle; farmworker, skilled/cattle (also: farmworker, skilled/dairy; –/domestic fur-bearing animals; –/fish; –/mixed animal husbandry; –/non-domesticated fur-bearing animals; –/pigs; –/poultry; –/sheep); veterinarian, etc. (ISCO)); animal herder; animal shelter supervisor; apiarist; artificial inseminator; beekeeper; cattleman; cowboy; fur farmer; herder; lamber; livestock farmer; livestock rancher; livestock yard attendant; milker; pelter; poultry farmer/ breeder; shepherd; stable attendant; stock raiser; supervisor, kennel; etc. (DOT and ISCO); animal propagation worker (RHAJ); animal hairdresser; gaucho; groom; stableman; zoo attendant/worker; etc.



Adjusting (controls); administering; anaesthetizing; applying (medications); apportioning; assisting (veterinarian); attaching; attending; bagging; bailing; bathing; bedding; binding; branding; breaking (horse); breeding; bridling; brushing; building (fences, sheds, etc.); bundling; butchering; buying and selling; caging; calculating; candling; caponizing; caring; carrying; castrating; catching; changing; clamping; cleaning; clipping; collecting (fees, donations, etc.); combing; conditioning; confining; constructing; corraling; crating; cultivating; culturing; curing (meat); debeaking; dehorning; delivering; demonstrating (animals to customers, viewers, etc.); dipping (utensils); disinfecting; distributing; docking; domesticating (animals); drenching; dressing; driving; documenting; enclosing; engaging; erecting; examining (animals); exercising; exhibiting (for commercial, educational or entertainment purposes); exterminating; farming; fattening; feeding; filling; flushing; foddering; folding; formulating; fumigating; gathering; goading; grazing; greasing; grinding; grooming; growing; guarding; guiding; handling; harnessing; harvesting; hatching; hauling; helping; herding; hiring; hitching (animals); identifying; incubating; informing; injecting; inoculating; inseminating; inspecting; investigating; isolating; keeping; killing; labelling; lashing; littering; loading and unloading; lubricating; maintaining; managing; marking; marketing; measuring; medicating; milking; milting; mixing; mounting and dismounting; moving; netting; notching; notifying; nurturing; observing; oiling; opening; operating; ordering; pacifying; packing; painting; performing; placing; planting; pouring; preparing; preserving; pricking; producing; propagating (animals); pumping; punching (cattle); purchasing; quarantining; racking; raising; ranching; rearing; recording; regulating; removing; renting; repairing; replenishing; reporting; restraining; riding; rounding up; saddling; scattering; scraping; segregating; selecting; separating; sexing (poultry); sharpening; shaving; shipping; shearing; shoeing; shovelling; showing (animals to customers, viewers, etc.); skinning; slaughtering; snipping; sorting; sowing; spawning; spraying; spurring; sterilizing; stocking; storing; stripping; supervising; tagging; taming; tattooing; tendering; tending; training (police and army dogs for drugs and explosives sniffing); transferring; transporting; treating; trimming; tying; using; vaccinating; walking (dogs); washing; watering; weighing; whipping; wrangling; yoking.


Accident hazards


– Slips, trips and falls (on slippery surfaces, stairs, etc.); colliding with scattered objects, etc.;

– Cuts and pricks caused by sharp objects, broken glass and syringes;

– Injuries caused by swinging doors;

– Bites, goring and/or being attacked by domestic or wild animals;

– Kicks, bites, scratches and stings caused by laboratory animals (primates, dogs, cats, goats, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice, hamsters and other rodents, snakes, wasps, etc.), domestic animals, fur animals, honeybees, zoo animals and other animals kept for their educational, commercial, entertainment, game, sports or other value, or for research purposes;

– Falls from horses and other riding animals;

– Road accidents while transporting animals;

– Accidental injury caused by firearms while hunting animals (for zoos, etc.);

– Fire hazard at animal-waste rendering plants;

– Fires and explosions caused by inflammables and explosives;

– Eye injury caused by metallic splinters (e.g., in farriers while horseshoeing, or while branding);

– Burns from hot metal objects (e.g., in farriers while horseshoeing);

– Electric shocks caused by defective or incorrectly operated electric and electromechanical equipment;

– Explosions of animal-food dust-air mixtures.

Physical hazards


– Exposure to ionizing radiation emitted by veterinary x-ray equipment and by laboratory animals investigated or treated with radioisotopes;

– Exposure of skin and eyes to ultraviolet radiation used for sterilization and other purposes in laboratories and animal quarters;

– Exposure to excessive noise, heat stress and hand-arm mechanical shocks and vibrations during forging and related operations (in farriers);

– Cold or heat stress (resulting in effects ranging from temperature discomfort to frostbite or heat stroke, respectively) and exposure to frequent abrupt temperature changes (when entering or leaving climate-controlled rooms) in animal handlers working mostly or partly outdoors under severe climatic conditions;

– Health problems (e.g., rheumatic, etc.) due to conditions in animal quarters such as high humidity, concrete floors, etc.

Chemical hazards


– Intoxication due to contact with chemicals, such as pesticides (especially insecticides, germicides and herbicides), solvents, strong acids and alkalis, detergents, etc.;

– Dermatoses due to contact with chemicals, such as pesticides, solvents, detergents, deodorants, animal medications, etc.;

– Allergies due to contact with formaldehyde and other synthetic or natural allergenic substances;

– Health hazards caused by inhaling formaldehyde vapours;

– Health hazards caused by exposure to metallic, solvent and other fumes during forging, shoeing and other hoof-care operations (especially in farriers);

– Systemic and gastrointestinal effects caused by exposure to cytotoxic agents (especially in laboratory animal handlers);

– Exposure to various carcinogenic, mutagenic and teratogenic agents (especially in laboratory animal handlers);

– Mercury poisoning (in fur-processing workers).

Biological hazards


– Infection due to contact with sick or pathogen- carrying animals or due to exposure to airborne pathogens, resulting in development of communicable diseases (zoonoses), including: anthrax, blastomycosis, brucellosis (undulant fever), B-virus (simian B disease), cat-scratch fever, echinococcosis (hydatidosis), encephalitis, enteritis (zoonotically acquired), erysipeloid, glanders, hookworm diseases, leptospirosis, Orf virus disease, ornithosis, pasteurellosis, plague, pseudocowpox, psittacosis, pyogenic infections, Q-fever, rabies, rat-bite fever, rift-valley fever, ringworm diseases, salmonellosis, swineherd’s disease, tapeworm diseases, toxoplasmosis, tuberculosis (bovine), tularaemia, typhus fever, etc., as well as other diseases related to protozoan parasites, rickettsia and chlamydia, viral and fungal infections, etc.;

– Laboratory-animal allergies (LAA) (including: occupational asthma, allergic alveolitis, bronchitis, pneumonitis, rhinitis, skin rashes, etc.) and diseases of the airways caused by inhalation of animal-food dust containing various micro-organisms and their spores, animal hair (causing furrier’s lung), bird-droppings residues (causing pigeon- breeder’s lung), etc.;

– Pulmonary dysfunctions in animal confinement workers caused by various agents, including hydrogen sulphide toxicity, bronchitis, non-allergic asthma, organic-dust toxic syndrome (ODTS), mucous membrane irritation, and by bioaerosols and endotoxins;

– Dust- and endotoxin-related respiratory effects in animal-feed workers and in fur-farm workers;

– Exposure to carcinogenic afflatoxins (causing primary liver cancer) of animal-feed workers;

– Cancer hazards due to carcinogens present in pesticides, animal medicines, etc.;

– Acute health effects caused by various flea-control products used by animal handlers;

– Increased risk of laboratory-acquired haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) caused by infected laboratory rats;

– Occupational eczemas and contact dermatitis;

– Increased risk of developing chronic lymphatic leukaemia (CLL) and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) in animal breeders;

– Various septic infections;

– Development of the mad-cow syndrome (viral) disease.

Ergonomic and social factors


– Musculoskeletal problems (particularly of back and knees) in animal handlers engaged in lengthy horse-riding and/or leaning on their knees (especially on concrete floors) during work (e.g., in farriers);

– Job dissatisfaction related to the working environment (dirt, smells, etc.) and to the mainly physical character of work;

– Exposure to attacks by cattle robbers, valuable-pet thieves, etc.;

– Exposure to protest, and possibly violence, by animals’ rights groups;

– Danger of developing drugs addiction facilitated by easy availability of animal medications.



Benenson, AS (ed.). 1990. Control of Communicable Diseases in Man, 15th edition. Washington, DC: American Public Health Association.

Worksafe Australia. 1995. Agriculture and Services to Agriculture Industries. Occupational Health and Safety Performance Overviews. Selected Industries, Issue No. 9. Canberra: Government of Australia.

World Health Organization (WHO). 1979. Parasitic Zoonoses. Report of a WHO Expert Committee with the Participation of FAO. Technical Report Series No. 637. Geneva: WHO.



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