Humane society program shows teens there are options when it comes to careers with animals

Countless numbers of kids love the idea of working with animals as a career when they grow up, but few possess what it takes to become a veterinarian. Many don’t realize there are a number of choices when it comes to careers in the animal field.

Jennifer Self-Aulgur, education coordinator at the Humane Society of West Michigan, is opening doors for teenagers who aspire to work with animals. Saturday from 9:30-11:30 a.m., Self-Aulgur is hosting the second program in HSWM’s Teen Series, “Careers with Animals.”

Sam, top, and Ralph relax on the couch in their East Grand Rapids home. Their owner, EGR Middle School student Caroline Raymond, hopes to make a career out of working with animals, possibly in photography. (Photo by Caroline Raymond)

The series, which included “Pet Sitting 101” in January and has a session on “Training Cats and Dogs” on May 12, is for kids 12 to 17 years old. Each session costs $15 and registration forms are available on the HSWM website.

Self-Aulgur said about 20 attendees are signed up for Saturday’s session so far, and she is still accepting registrations.

“We have some kids who from an early age knew they wanted to work with animals, and some who are just starting to look at different career options,” Self-Aulgur said. “The more we can do to encourage them at a young age is great. A lot of them think they want to be a vet, but they don’t understand what’s involved in being a vet.

“We let them know there are other options to work with animals, and they don’t have to be a veterinarian.”

Saturday’s panel of west Michigan professionals will include a veterinarian, a dog trainer, a dog day care worker, a groomer and a writer (full disclosure: Yours truly is the writer on the panel).

“They’ll be discussing how they got where they are in their careers, what they would recommend to students interested in a career with animals and what they can do right now to get started,” Self-Aulgur said. “We’ll also have a Q-and-A session and the kids themselves can speak if they wish.”

Caroline Raymond, 14, is an East Grand Rapids Middle School student who plans to attend Saturday’s session. She said she’s interested in photography and animals. Raymond has two golden retrievers, Ralph and Sam, that she enjoys photographing and even shared one of her favorite photos for this story.

“I want to work with animals when I grow up, so I want to see the different careers and options available,” said Raymond, who walks dogs as a volunteer at HSWM. “I want to be a photographer for animals or be an endangered species preservation person.”

Self-Aulgur said a “Vet Day” that HSWM held last year, during which kids shadowed a veterinarian for a day, opened a lot of eyes to those thinking of becoming a vet.

“A lot of them, after that, were saying, ‘No way,’ ” she said. “It’s good that they learned that at an early age, before they spent thousands of dollars to find that out. Many don’t realize that to become a veterinarian, you have to be good at science and math, and at schools like Michigan State, even getting in (to the vet school) is really tough.

“We want to show them there is a multitude of careers they can have with animals.”



3 thoughts on “Humane society program shows teens there are options when it comes to careers with animals

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