What Does an Animal Shelter Manager Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

A day in the life of an animal shelter manager: Ensuring animals in the shelter have everything they need, seeking additional sources of funding, creating and maintaining budgets, ordering supplies

The Balance / Emilie Dunphy

Animal shelter managers are responsible for ensuring the humane treatment of animals that are living in the shelter, overseeing facility maintenance, and supervising shelter staff. People in this line of work may find positions with animal shelters, humane societies, animal rescues, and other nonprofit animal welfare organizations. 

Animal Shelter Manager Duties & Responsibilities

This job generally requires the ability to do the following:

  • Ensuring animals in the shelter have everything they need
  • Supervising and leading shelter employees
  • Developing operational procedures
  • Seeking additional sources of funding
  • Promoting and organizing adoption events
  • Organizing donations and interacting with donors
  • Ordering supplies
  • Giving tours of the shelter
  • Representing the shelter at community events
  • Creating and maintaining budgets
  • Preparing reports and paperwork

Animal shelter managers supervise all animal shelter employees including animal control officers, kennel workers, pet adoption counselors, humane educators, veterinarians, and volunteers. They also are tasked with ensuring that animals are treated humanely and that the facilities are maintained and upgraded properly.

Animal Shelter Manager Salary

The salary that an animal shelter manager earns can vary based on a variety of factors such as their specific responsibilities, years of experience, educational background, and the region in which the position is located. Most animal shelter manager positions do not offer particularly high salaries, but those who follow animal rescue career paths tend to be willing to sacrifice some earning potential for the prospect of being able to help animals in need.

  • Median Annual Salary: $35,975
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $51,000
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $25,000

Source: PayScale, 2019

Education Requirements & Qualifications

  • Education: A college degree in business administration, animal science, or a closely related field is generally desired for most animal shelter manager positions.
  • Experience: Experience working with animals (particularly in a shelter environment) is a big plus. Several years of experience in a managerial role is also usually a prerequisite, ideally completed with work at an animal nonprofit or rescue organization.

Animal Shelter Manager Skills & Competencies

There are certain qualities and skills you need to be effective in this field:

  • Compassion: Love of animals and kindness toward them and their helpers, fosters, and potential owners is a must for this type of position.
  • Physical stamina: When working directly with animals, shelter managers may need to kneel, crawl, bend, and be on their feet.
  • Communication skills: Shelter managers must interact regularly with staff members and the public about adoption and fundraising events, as well as the needs of the animals.
  • Financial management skills: Shelter managers must oversee a budget and plan fundraising initiatives.
  • Comfort with tech: Since they will largely be concerned with administrative duties, animal shelter managers should have solid computer skills including familiarity with using popular record keeping and word processing programs (Microsoft Word, Excel, and database management software).

Job Outlook

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), more than 6.5 million companion animals enter shelters in the U.S. each year, and that number continues to grow. It is expected that more positions will be created for animal shelter managers each year as more shelters are built and populated to serve the needs of various communities.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that overall employment of animal care and service workers, in general, will grow 22 percent through 2026, which is much faster than the 7 percent rate of growth for all occupations during the same period.

Work Environment

People in this role must be able to handle chaotic environments and situations that could cause stress. The kennel area in a shelter is often loud with unpleasant odors, and the animals often come from disturbing situations in which they were harmed or neglected.

Though they primarily work in an administrative role, animal shelter managers may also come into direct contact with animals while assisting their staff from time to time. While handling animals, animal shelter staff must be careful to take adequate safety precautions with animals that may be dealing with trauma from prior neglect or being in an unfamiliar environment.

Work Schedule

Animal shelter managers primarily work routine office hours but some evening and weekend hours may be necessary depending on the shelter’s operating schedule.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People who are interested in becoming animal shelter managers may also be interested in the following careers:

  • Veterinarian: $90,420
  • Veterinary technician: $33,400
  • Zoologist and wildlife biologist: $62,290
  • Farmer, rancher, or other agricultural managers: $69,620

 Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to Get the Job

Go to School

A degree in business administration or an animal-related science can give you a competitive advantage.

Build Experience

Contact your local shelter or search websites such as BestFriends.org to find volunteer opportunities in your area.


Find opportunities through sites like Indeed or Simply Hired.