Case study

Animal technician — Dionne

Dionne encourages others to consider this rewarding and fulfilling career and enjoys making sure the animals get the best care possible

How did you become an animal technician?

After graduating in animal behaviour, it took me a little while to actually land a job working with animals. I applied to universities, pharmaceutical companies, and institutes from both the private and public sectors and finally landed my first animal based job in a university working with zebra fish as a junior aquarium technician.

From here, I decided to broaden my skills by joining an agency that specialises in animal technician work. I'd really recommend doing this as it provides a plethora of opportunities to work with varied species and to learn husbandry and handling techniques as well as procedures in different institutes.

It was by working with an agency for about a year or so that I got the current role that I'm in now as a trained animal technician, working with rodents in a 'clean' unit.

Gain as much practical experience as possible but as there's a lot of on the job training don't be discouraged if you have limited experience

Is an animal-related degree important?

While I do work with animals and animal behaviour is an element of what we do, I don't believe my subject of study played a very dominant role in securing my current position. I would say agency work is what got my foot in the door and that my degree played a more predominant role in securing my initial job as an aquarium technician earlier on in my career.

What are your main work activities?

A typical working day starts with room checks. This involves recording the temperature and relative humidity of each animal room. We then proceed to health check all animals in the unit, scanning each cage ensuring the animals are alive and they have food and water. Once initial checks are complete, we then clean out the allocated cages for that week; changing soiled cages for fresh ones, topping up food and conducting a more in-depth health check. Once this is done any other unit tasks are then undertaken, this will vary depending on the day and can include:

  • ear notch/biopsies;
  • inter peritoneum injections;
  • tissue sampling;
  • setting up breeding mates;
  • assisting the researchers and licensees.

Before going home, the animals in all rooms are checked a final time before lights out and paperwork is written up and kept for the Home Office.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

My role has developed immensely, as I have several more qualifications than I had when I started as an aquarium technician. I have since become a Named Animal Care Welfare Officer (NACWO) - an important animal welfare role under the Home Office legislation and have attained the Institute of Animal Technology level two in animal management, and I'm currently studying for level three. I'm aiming to keep progressing by gaining knowledge and experience through courses and workshops. I hope to move up a grade by the end of this year and hope to one day become a unit manager.

What do you enjoy about being an animal technician?

It's difficult to pin point specifics of the job that I enjoy as no two days are the same, but generally speaking, I enjoy animal care. Knowing that I have provided the best care that I could provide for the duration of that animal's life, ensuring they are free from pain and suffering. I also enjoy knowing that in a small way, I'm playing a role in innovating modern medicine and aiding in the continual battle to treat currently incurable diseases.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

Making difficult decisions concerning when an animal has to be put down, taking into consideration the research that it is being used for and the welfare of the animal.

Any tips for becoming an animal technician?

This is a brilliant career to pursue that no longer holds the stigma it used to. It's both fulfilling and rewarding and I would recommend any animal lover interested to pursue it. I would advise that you gain as much practical experience as possible before and during, however, there is a lot of on the job training available so don't be discouraged if you have limited experience.