Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Animal Rescue Worker

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. (See this post for more information on this connection.) It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

Occupation: Animal Rescue Worker

Overview: There are many different jobs under the umbrella of animal rescue workers: owners and managers of shelters, veterinarians and technicians, trainers, deployment workers, animal control officers, and even wildlife rehabilitation workers, just to name a few. This entry will focus on rescue deployment workers, who are called out to assess, and if needed, rescue domestic animals in distress. The animals may be at risk due to hoarding situations (on farms as well as pet owners), abandoned animals, dog-fighting rings, puppy mills, factory farms, or disaster relief when animals are displaced.

Necessary Training: To join a rescue group, often a person only needs a high school diploma, as they will receive training by the organization on assessments (determining the condition of an animal, their age, possible risk factors, if abuse has occurred, injuries or diseases, etc.), the safe handling of animals, different risk scenarios, basic care, and rehabilitation. If a person wishes to move up the chain, especially to work their way into a management role, they may need a business diploma. Some rescue workers will come into the job with a psychology background or take courses in handling people, learning how to de-escalate situations with owners.

If a rescue worker frequently works in animal rescue and re-homing in disaster situations (forest fires, flooding, etc.) then specialized training for working in these environments would also be needed, such as setting up a base of operations, adhering to safety protocols, gathering and managing volunteers, working in tandem with other aid-based groups, collecting food, kennels, bedding, or securing transporting as needed, getting animals medical care, reuniting animals with owners in the aftermath, etc.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A knack for languages, a knack for making money, a way with animals, basic first aid, exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others,  multitasking, photographic memory, promotion, swift-footedness, wilderness navigation

Helpful Character Traits: Adaptable, adventurous, affectionate, alert, calm, cautious, cooperative, courageous, disciplined, kind, merciful, nature-focused, nurturing, organized, passionate, persistent, persuasive, protective, socially aware

Sources of Friction: Owners who do not want to give up their animals, knowing abuse is occurring but not being able to prove it, finding animals so bad off the humane thing is to put them down, discovering acts of cruelty but being unable to find the person responsible, having to go to the same home or farm multiple times because the person is a repeat offender (such as a hoarder or puppy mill owner), always struggling with funding issues, having too many animals to rescue and not enough shelter space

People They Might Interact With: animal rescue workers, pet owners, ranchers and farmers, police officers, people from other aid organizations, veterinarian, shelter workers, dog groomers, rehabilitation specialists, animal foster families, advocacy (animal rights) groups

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Self-Actualization: A character in this occupation could suffer a crisis of faith at seeing the cruelty people are capable of
  • Esteem and Recognition: A rescue worker who is unable to rescue animals in time may internalize the weight of the pain that animal suffered and feel their have failed, questioning their own self-worth and abilities.
  • Love and Belonging: Having to travel, and the long hours of rescue work may not leave a lot of time for other people, especially if the rescue worker is caring for animals themselves, being part of the rehabilitation chain.
  • Safety and Security: someone in this profession may be in danger if stepping into a situation unaware, both from people (violent owners, criminals using animals for profit, etc.) and the animals themselves (who may have rabies, or be violent due to mistreatment.

Common Work-Related Settings: alley, backyard, badlands, barn, basement, big city street, campsite, chicken coop, circus, condemned apartment building, construction site, country road, courtroom, creek, empty lot, factory, farm, forest, homeless shelter, house fire, landfill, motor home, mountains, park, pasture, pet store, police station, quarry, race track (horses), ranch, razed city street, refugee camp, river, salvage yard, sewers, trailer park, underpass, waiting room


Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, an online library packed with powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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4 Responses to Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Animal Rescue Worker

  1. Pingback: Writing Links…1/29/18 – Where Genres Collide

  2. Sharon Mayhew says:

    Great post! Is this a potential new book????/

    • Hi, Sharon! We’ve just started this one, so it’s impossible to tell yet what we’ll end up doing with it. But I guess all of our thesaurus collections are potential new books :).

  3. Mary Ann SLavcheff says:

    I just finished a short story about a crazy cat lady. She’ll eventually be part of a novel.
    This is an interesting post, but in considering occupations, don’t forget volunteers. I take phone calls, clean the cat cages and work at fund raising events. I’ve been doing this for over forty years, and some interesting stories pop up.

    Thank you.

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