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New Zealand Certificate in Animal Care (Companion Animals)

New Zealand Certificate in Animal Care (Companion Animals)

Level 3

Harness your love for animals and join the rewarding animal care industry with UCOL’s New Zealand Certificate in Animal Care (Companion Animals) Level 3.

Veterinary Nursing students work with a dog at our Palmerston North campus
Quick info

Level: 3

Locations: UCOL Manawatū in Palmerston North, UCOL Wairarapa in Masterton

Duration: 20 weeks, full-time – blended learning format

22 Feb 2021 - 09 Jul 2021
26 Jul 2021 - 10 Dec 2021

Domestic Fees: *
$3,618.00Scholarship info

International Fees:*

Additional Fees
Compulsory course costs may apply.

* Fees are indicative only, and are inclusive of the student services levy and GST (goods and services tax). The fee shown is for one year of study.

Gain the skills, knowledge and experience you need to maintain the welfare of companion animals such as cats, dogs, companion birds and rabbits. 

This programme will provide you with the qualification needed to comply with all regulatory requirements and relevant industry codes of practice for animal care, respond to normal and abnormal health and behaviour in animals and assist with the day to day care of animals.

 Career & Study Outcomes

  • Pet stores
  • Animal rescue centres
  • Pet groomers
  • Boarding and training facilities
  • General pet owners
  • Animal recreation businesses
  • Or staircase to further study

 Course Information

This programme is taught in a blended learning format. You will be in class one full day and one half day each week. In addition, there will be lecturer-supported online tasks and learning activities to make a full-time study load. These online tasks can be done at home, or at UCOL using UCOL computers.

Introduction to Animal Care (10 Credits)
Learn introductory concepts of animal anatomy, physiology, care, husbandry, and professional behaviour, prior to commencing experiential learning in animal related facilities. The course covers:

  • Personal effectiveness: self-management; time management, stress management, self- confidence, personal presentation, self-awareness, personal sustainability, and cultural awareness
  • Workplace and personal hazards in terms of personal and job safety
  • Personal responsibilities, avoiding and reporting accidents
  • Acts and Legislation relating to the workplace 
  • Safe working practices at an animal facility 
  • Function of cell components, cell division, osmosis and diffusion
  • Body tissues: epithelial, connective, muscle, nervous
  • Locate organs, organ systems and body cavities in dogs
  • Understand basic functions of main organs
  • Introduction to infection control methods and prevention of disease 
  • Correct disposal of waste at an animal facility in accordance with sustainable practice, current legislation and local bylaws
  • Introduction to cleaning and disinfection practices
  • Identification of cleaning and disinfectant agents and their safe use
  • Introduction to sustainable practice 
  • Identification of common breeds of cats, dogs, rabbits and companion birds 
  • Identification of age, sex and neuter status of a variety of species
  • Animal body language and communication in relation to handler and animal safety and welfare
  • Principles of low stress handling
  • Animal Welfare Act, its principals and application
  • Personal and professional ethics and cultural differences
  • Integrative approaches to animal health; how environment, exercise, lifestyle and preventative healthcare impact on animal health and welfare

Assist in Maintaining the Animal Facility (15 Credits)
Learn the necessary factors and procedures to maintain effective health, safety and hygiene work practices in an animal related facility. The course covers:

  • Identifying areas where sustainable practices could be implemented or improved
  • Self-management and interpersonal skills  
  • Workplace and personal hazards in terms of personal and job safety
  • Procedures for avoiding and reporting accidents 
  • Acts and legislation relating to workplace practices in terms of personal responsibilities
  • Safe working practices at an animal related facility 
  • Correct storage and handling of hazardous materials to ensure safety of self and others at the facility
  • Basic microbiology, structure and replication 
  • Routes and transmission of disease
  • Common infectious diseases in New Zealand in relation to companion animals
  • Prevention of infectious disease including zoonotic disease
  • Correct disposal of waste at an animal related facility in accordance with current legislation and local bylaws
  • Effective cleaning and disinfection practices
  • Properties of cleaning agents and disinfectants and their correct usage
  • Maintaining feeding and grooming equipment in a clean and hygienic state
  • Identification of diseases requiring animal isolation
  • Understand isolation and barrier procedures to minimise the spread of infectious disease
  • Interpersonal skills; teamwork, communication: face to face, telephone, electronic, written
  • Self-management; time management, stress management, self- confidence, personal presentation, self-awareness, personal sustainability.
  • Animal identification methods 
  • Animal admissions and discharge procedures
  • Maintenance of a reception area
  • Record systems at an animal related facility
  • Maintaining client confidentiality - data protection, acts and legislation, and personal responsibilities

Applied Animal Behaviour, Husbandry, Handling and Welfare (15 Credits)
Explore factors affecting animal behaviour and welfare, apply principles of ethical handling and training techniques and safely and effectively perform daily tasks at an animal facility under supervision. The course covers:

  • Evolutionary and social behaviour of species in relation to handling and husbandry
  • Factors affecting behaviour – genotype, environment, learning
  • Animal body language in relation to handler and animal safety and welfare
  • Ways of minimising stress in the animal related facility
  • Basic dog training; operant conditioning, the role of reward and punishment, house-training, basic obedience training skills
  • Advice for simple behaviour problems; e.g. pulling on lead, jumping up, boisterousness, inappropriate toileting, etc.
  • When a referral to a specialist animal behaviourist is required
  • Evidence-based and up to date advice for simple behaviour problems 
  • Safe handling considerations such as animal demeanour, environment, handler safety, procedure (groom, worm, walk, feed, flea treatment)
  • Handling and restraint techniques: for a variety of different situations with a focus on using low-stress approaches and with consideration for health, injury, disease or physical conditions which may impact on animal’s welfare
  • Restraint and control equipment and techniques: stretcher, collars, leads, muzzles, towels, carry cages, dog catcher pole, slip lead, double-leading,  distraction and engagement with toys, food
  • Current legislation for transportation of small animals including documentation required and animal identification methods
  • Welfare requirements for animals in transport: e.g. breed, age, health status, temperament, travelling container, restraint, stress reduction, food, water, medication, exercise
  • Animal Welfare Act, its principals and application
  • Relevant codes and guidelines in relation to the animal related facility
  • Compare cultural differences toward pet ownership
  • Current legislation (including local bylaws) pertaining to requirements for dog ownership and control
  • Limitations regarding giving information and advice about animal welfare 
  • Sources of further information and advice on animal welfare
  • Personal and professional ethics
  • Maintaining an animal facility in a clean and hygienic state according to facility procedures
  • Work safely at an animal facility
  • Maintaining feeding and grooming equipment
  • Cleaning and disinfecting kennels, cages and the general environment
  • Effective communication skills with customers and staff at an animal related facility
  • Identifying, admiting and discharging an animal in an animal related facility
  • Keeping accurate facility records according to facility procedures 
  • Providing day-to-day care and husbandry to maintain the health and welfare of animals at an animal related facility; ie feeding, grooming, toileting and removal of waste, exercise, and enrichment
  • Performing a basic health examination and reporting findings to a supervisor according to facility protocol
  • Handling and transporting animals safely and effectively for routine purposes 
  • Administering medications: oral, topical 

Animal Husbandry (15 Credits)
Use species-appropriate knowledge to understand the requirements of optimum health, husbandry and housing for a range of companion animals. The course covers:

  • Common breeds of cats, dogs, rabbits and companion birds
  • Body condition score, age, sex and neuter status 
  • Genetic traits (physical, behavioural and health) of common breeds of dog and cat, especially in relation to their preferred environment and suitability as pets
  • Coat types and their grooming requirements to maintain optimal health for cats, dogs and rabbits
  • Basic reproduction, parturition and care of neonates, and ethical considerations of breeding companion animals 
  • Optimal environment with regard to: animal health, safety, hygiene and welfare; including materials, lighting, positioning, bedding materials, size and with consideration for natural habitat and behaviour (social, solitary, wide-ranging etc.) 
  • Species-appropriate environmental enrichment for dogs, cats, rabbits and companion birds
  • Appropriate nutrition for dogs, cats, rabbits and companion birds including life stage nutrition if applicable 

Assist with the Maintenance of Animal Health (15 Credits)
Use knowledge of normal anatomy and physiology to recognise and respond to signs of ill-health and emergencies in companion animals, and use an integrative approach to animal health and welfare. The course covers:

  • Review function of cell components, cell division, osmosis and diffusion
  • Review of body tissues: epithelial, connective, muscle, nervous
  • Structure and function of skin, the skeletal system and special senses
  • Location of organs, organ systems and body cavities in dogs, cats, companion birds and rabbits
  • Components and basic function of major body systems; Respiratory, Cardiovascular, Lymphatic, Digestive, Urinary, Reproductive, Nervous, Endocrine
  • Signs of health and ill health and appropriate action 
  • Common diseases affecting cats, dogs, rabbits and companion birds
  • Distance and hands-on basic animal examination to assess health status
  • Record findings from a basic health examination and take appropriate action 
  • Recording of accurate details of basic health examination according to facility procedure and act appropriately on findings
  • Basic biological data and accurate records according to facility procedures
  • Procedures required to maintain health and welfare, according to standard procedures; vaccinations, parasite control, administer oral and topical medications
  • Integrative animal health and well-being; multifactorial influence of diet, environment, exercise, lifestyle and preventative healthcare on animal health and welfare
  • Animals requiring extra care: pregnant, lactating, incontinent, aged, arthritic, breed specific health problems (brachycephalics, coat types) 
  • Objectives and limitations of first aid
  • Triage an animal to determine the extent of injury and first aid treatment required
  • First aid advice for: Wounds, haemorrhage, shock, burns, choking, fractures, respiratory and cardiac arrest, poisoning, dystocia, foreign bodies, hyperthermia

 Industry Connections

Animal Care Establishments and the Veterinary Nursing Educational Standards Committee (VNESC).

 Learning Facilities

Animal handling lab

 Domestic Entry Requirements

NCEA Level 1


Equivalent academic achievement


On a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the Executive Dean

All applicants are required to:

  • Declare any previous criminal convictions prior to admission being confirmed. Convictions of any offence may not necessarily exclude applicants from enrolment; the decision is at the discretion of the Academic Leader; and
  • Authorise UCOL to obtain a background check from the New Zealand Police Licensing and Vetting Agency; and
  • Complete a health declaration form including tetanus status.


For more information about NCEA Credits see UCOL's NCEA explained page.

 International Entry Requirements

In addition to the Domestic Entry Requirements, the following applies to international student applicants.

English language proficiency
International applicants whose first language is not English must have an IELTS (or equivalent including TOEFL) score of 5 with no band score lower than 5. UCOL is a TOEFL iBT testing centre. The English Proficiency test is accepted for English language entry into all UCOL programmes.

Under 20 years of age
For international applicants under 20 years of age who do not hold NCEA, International Academic Qualifications Entry Criteria apply.

 Advice & Guidance

UCOL's New Zealand Certificate in Animal Care (Companion Animals) comprises 70 credits.

To optimise chances of student success, 100% attendance is strongly recommended. 

All students must be physically able to handle cats, dogs, rabbits and companion birds.

Recognition of Prior Learning
Applications for Recognition of Prior Learning, including Cross Credit, Credit Transfer and Assessment of Prior Learning may be made on the Recognition of Prior Learning Form where a student believes all learning outcomes for a course or unit standards have already been met.

Application checklist

It will make the process easier if you prepare the following before you apply:

  • National Student Number (NSN) (If you don't have a NSN, you may request one from NZQA, or you can supply a verified copy of your birth certificate, passport or Whakapapa statement.)
  • Evidence of your highest level of academic achievement (and evidence of prior learning, if applicable)
  • Evidence that you meet the entry requirements of the programme
  • Check if you're eligible for additional support or a scholarship. If you're 19 years or younger, you may be eligible to enrol in one of our free Youth Transition programmes.

Note that you will need to provide any verified documents in person, via post or email.

 Additional Costs

Please note that there are additional costs associated with the New Zealand Certificate in Animal Care (Companion Animals) of approximately $85.00:

  • Navy or black dress trousers (not jeans)
  • Covered shoes (eg sneakers)
  • Calculator
  • Stationery (pens, pencils, ruler, paper etc)


The programme is approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority under the provisions of the Education Act 1989, and Universal College of Learning (UCOL) is accredited to teach it.