Occupations like groomers, trainers, rescue workers, and veterinarians may kennel animals such as cats and dogs. Animal handling, unpredictable animal behavior, and repetitive cleaning, feeding, and treatment tasks mean that kennel workers need training, proper equipment and facility design, along with safe work practices.
Before you handle an animal, assess its health, stress level, and body language. A gentle animal can turn aggressive if startled, so protect yourself and the animal by using personal protection and handling tools. When working with cats, wear long sleeves and gauntlets to protect your arms. Use the appropriate glove for hand and finger protection from punctures (sharp cat teeth) or crushing (large dog bites). Wash your hands throughout the day and before eating, drinking, or leaving work.
Use handling tools like a lead or leash to move or exercise gentle dogs. Cat tongs safely and humanely move aggressive and/or feral cats. A tether pole moves gentle and aggressive animals while keeping them away from your body. Secure animals by collar hooks or in the kennel/cage before you release them. Consider muzzles when you must closely handle animals for medical treatment or exams.
To avoid bites and scratches, don’t lean on, walk close to, or place your fingers or face in or near a cage or kennel. Ideally, kennel and cage doors should open outward to avoid getting trapped inside a kennel or crushed between the door and jamb if an animal launches against the door. Communicate an aggressive animal hazard with warning signs on the kennel and flag the animal’s file.
During medical treatment, secure animals to the exam table or at floor level. Before you give an injection, secure a dog in a collapsible treatment chute or tethered at multiple points. Use a clear cage shield or barrier for cat injections. For highly aggressive animals, use a safety stick pole for injections. Know where your hands are during the injection. Wear eye protection and a face shield to avoid splashes. Practice needle safety; do not try to re-cap or break needles. Put used needles in appropriate containers.
Prepare yourself for unexpected animal movements that can push or pull you and cause strains and sprains. Use a wide foot stance for stability. Wear safety boots or shoes with non-slip soles for traction and protection from heavy animals. Hold small, gentle animals firmly and as close to the body as possible when transporting them or giving treatments. Don’t lift larger animals; use ramps to move them into cages, trucks, and exam tables.
Proper facility design can prevent injuries. Surfaces like stainless steel, solid surface, or formica, are washable and easy to disinfect. Use non-slip surfaces for walkways. Put wheels on cage units that you frequently move. Stacked cages with sealed compartments and removable waste trays reduce cleanup and avoid drips and contamination. Clip-on water and food bowls prevent tipping and waste. Auto-fill water bowls reduce the need for repetitive handling. To remove waste from kennel areas, consider channels that can be flushed with water and spray nozzles.