It is impossible to say who the first veterinarian was because the profession goes as far back as Roman times and possibly further back than that. The word “veterinarian” was not in use. Instead, people who treated animals were called “horse doctors” or “animal doctors.” Doctors who cared for humans would often care for sick or injured animals.
Often these were working animals that lived on farms or served in the military. These working animals were used for food, protection, and transportation. The doctors who cared for these animals had basic skills. Much like human medicine, caring for animals involved more guessing than science. Animal disease, like human illness, was surrounded by mystery and superstition.
One of the first veterinary schools opened in Lyon, France, in 1762. The profession changed dramatically at that time, and today it continues to morph and grow. The transformation of the industry is due to our love of animals. According to a survey from the American Pet Products Association, there are 73 million owned dogs and 90 million owned cats in the United States. Dog and cat owners spend an average of $200 on veterinary visits annually.
People also own birds, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, fish, turtles, snakes, lizards, and other reptiles. It doesn't seem to matter what type of animal you own. One thing for certain is that people love and care deeply about their animals. Often animals are treated as members of the family. With that, the pet industry has seen so many new professional opportunities arise. Just five years ago, doggie daycare centers didn't exist. If you inquired about boarding your pet in a pet hotel, you probably got a roll of the eyes or a blank stare. Today, these industries are a growing business.
Animal actors have been around since the beginning of the movies. However, today there is an entire industry devoted to making sure that animal actors are treated fairly and safely on movie sets.
CSI (crime scene investigation) units now are available to study animal abuse. Take the Michael Vick dog fighting case. Crime scene investigators looked at evidence to see how the dogs in this case were abused. Units such as this one didn't exist a handful of years ago. Today, they are part of a growing industry.
As our love of animals grows, career opportunities expand. That is why the industry changes so often. New technologies and branches in veterinary medicine, new positions at zoos, our interest in the environment, and more services for our pets have fueled the expansion of the animal care industry.
Several studies have shown the positive effects that pets have on the mental and physical health of humans. In turn, people want to work with animals. The benefits are enormous, and there really is no typical day. The surprises that come from working closely with animals attract many people to the industry and its varied careers.
The people interviewed in this book share personal stories about why they chose to work with animals, and how each day is different. They talk about the challenges of the job and how they got into their chosen professions. Some were bankers and corporate executives who wanted to change careers. Others always knew that they wanted to work with animals. They took a direct path, starting by volunteering at their local veterinarian's office or zoo after junior high or high school, studied hard in school, went to the appropriate universities, and got their degrees. Career paths vary depending on the position.
Positions range from entry to executive level. Some people work with large animals; others with dogs and cats. Training, schooling, and temperament also vary from job to job. Some positions require high school diplomas; other jobs require several years of education. Careers are available in every state and at various income levels. This is not a one-size-fits-all field. It is, however, a field with lots of benefits and many growth opportunities.