A circuitous route: Preparing for a career in the companion animal industry

Wednesday, July 23, 2014: 3:40 PM
3501D (Kansas City Convention Center)
Anna Kate Shoveller , The University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada
Abstract Text:

Today’s companion animal industry refers to food and products for the pet owner and predominantly includes products for dogs and cats. US Pet Industry expenditures in 2012 were ~53.3 billion and have been steadily increasing over the past 20 years, suggesting a large growth opportunity. There is also growing interest from undergraduate and graduate students to pursue companion animal biology. Professionals are needed to do research in animal biology (health, metabolism, behavior); communicate complex findings to academics, industry professionals and pet owners; develop and market food and products; and maintain the regulatory requirements that tend to be different between countries. “Pet passion” is a necessary attribute for a career in the pet care industry. Individuals need to be effective in multi-functional teams, have strong communication skills and thought processes. These processes also require collaboration outside of internal teams with academic, government and business partners and effective professionals need to be able to utilize a diverse knowledge set. These individuals need to be strategically and operationally agile, enabling them to see the big picture yet know when to be detail oriented. Successfully acquiring knowledge and experience in animal biology will put you in a solid position to compete in the companion animal industry. Despite this requirement, there are still few companion animal programs in North America, outside of veterinary school, and because of that, the majority of professionals in the companion animal industry are trained in production animal or human biology. While an individual can build and continue to acquire new knowledge and skills outside of a formal academic program, academia has historically, and continues to be, responsible for teaching the base of knowledge in undergraduate programs and deeper knowledge and problem-solving skills in graduate school. Programs and funding that encourage collaboration between government, industry and academia, with a solid commitment to generate the next generation of highly-trained technologists and future leaders for the pet care industry, are needed. Furthermore, long-term strategic programs with greater levels of collaboration among academic institutions may help to provide continuity in basic training. Educated and experienced individuals working together across government, academia and industry can help set strategies that would further enable advancements in companion animal health and well being and enhance our knowledge of the role of companion animals in improving the lives of their families.

Keywords: pet care, career, opportunities