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Director of Animal Husbandry and Welfare

Santa Barbara Zoo

Director of Animal Husbandry and Welfare

Santa Barbara, CA
Full Time
  • Responsibilities

    Immediate Opening!

    This position is part of a dynamic and progressive Animal Care & Health team.

    Bring your strong animal care and welfare knowledge and experience, teamwork ethic, personal accountability, and proven enthusiasm to our team of dedicated professionals!

    You will be responsible for managing all aspects of animal care and welfare and facilitating the day-to-day operational needs of the Animal Care & Health Department, managing a team of Zoological Managers and keepers; providing a positive guest experience.

    Schedules: Sunday-Thursday, generally between the hours of 8:00 AM and 5:30 PM, including some evenings for events, holidays, and based on the business needs.

    Compensation: 70K/year

    Job Description: Director of Animal Husbandry and Welfare

    SUMMARY: Under general direction of the Vice President of Animal Care & Health, the Director of Animal Husbandry & Welfare is responsible for all aspects of animal care and welfare and facilitating the day-to-day operational needs of the Animal Care & Health Department.

    ESSENTIAL DUTIES include the following:

    Animal Care and Management

    Acts as a role model/leader in animal husbandry and health issues.

    Applies an understanding of animal husbandry and health to determine animal management direction including operational procedures.

    Recognizes and determines the seriousness of abnormal behavior and medical conditions.

    Confirms regular adherence to USDA Animal Welfare Act, regional, federal and AZA standards associated with animal care and welfare.

    Ensures compliance to all animal-related procedures in a safe manner for both staff and animals, including established SOG’s and protocols.

    Assesses facility needs, prioritizes and coordinates exhibit maintenance and improvements.

    Establishes the Standard Operating Guidelines for animal husbandry and exhibit maintenance by gathering all appropriate information and generating team consensus on documented animal husbandry procedures.

    Communicates veterinary and animal husbandry information in a timely manner to the AC&H team and appropriate management staff.

    Oversees the Ambassador Animal program to maximize the effectiveness and safety of the program, and to assess and monitor the welfare of individual ambassador animals.

    Collaborates with the Director of Collections to facilitate animal transactions and be knowledgeable about shipping regulations for animals.

    Collaborates with the Vice President of Animal Care & Health and Director of Collections to develop, review and modify the institutional collection plan.

    Collaborates with the Executive team, Vice President of Animal Care & Health, Director of Collections and appropriate consultants in selection of species and exhibit design.

    Collaborates with the Executive team, Vice President of Animal Care & Health, Director of Collections and other departments for the development of capital projects and exhibit enhancement projects.

    Works with the Director of Collections to support and participate in AZA’s Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) and Species Survival Plan (SSP) programs.

    Works collaboratively with the Veterinarians and Veterinary staff to ensure the highest level of medical care for the animals in the collection.

    Works collaboratively with the Nutritionist to ensure optimal nutrition and feeding strategies for the animals in the collection.

    Works with the Director of Collections to manage the department’s budget.

    Collaborates positively and effectively with other departments such as Education, Guest Services, Institutional Advancement, Conservation & Science, and Marketing to achieve the goals of the AC&H department and zoo-wide programs.

    Represents the Director of Animal Husbandry & Welfare or Vice President of Animal Care & Health in their absence.

    Animal Welfare

    Responsible for overseeing the animal welfare program including annual collection level assessments, collaboratively developing mid-level and deeper dive assessments with stakeholders as needed, progressing animal welfare training within the department, coordinating twice yearly All Zoo animal welfare update presentations, coordinating and participating in quarterly animal welfare assessment working group meetings.

    A key member of the Animal welfare assessment working group which meets quarterly to review assessments, evaluate the assessment process, and identify and address welfare concerns.

    Oversees the animal training program and actively supports the Zoological managers and Keepers in the advancement of the animal training program.

    Oversees the behavioral enrichment (BE) program and actively supports the Zoological managers, Keepers and Behavioral enrichment working group in the development and advancement of the BE program.

    A member of the Animal Welfare Committee which reviews and approves research proposals and addresses welfare concerns brought to the committee.

    Conservation and Science Programs

    Collaborates with the Conservation & Science department to support participation in local conservation programs and field work opportunities.

    Collaborates with the Director of Conservation & Science, Veterinarians and Zoological managers, to fulfill institutionally approved research requests.

    Collaborates with the Director of Conservation & Science and Veterinarians to develop and implement in-house research activities.

    Actively encourages and supports AC&H staff to participate in AZA animal programs (TAGs, SAGs, SSPs, SAFE programs, committees) and leads by example by being part of an AZA animal program such as SSP coordinator, studbook keeper, TAG or SAG committee member or other)

    Identifies potential conservation program connection between the institution and AZA groups such as SSPs and TAGs.

    Animal Care Documentation

    Oversees the input of animal care daily records into ZIMS.

    Reviews daily animal records and provides feedback and/or process changes in order to improve quality and retrievability of records.

    Assesses and refines all forms of departmental documentation as needed through exploration of new possibilities for improvement.

    Oversees collation and tracking of animal welfare assessments, and completion of action items.

    Works with the Director of Collections to maintain all animal care related regulatory documentation including permits.

    Works with the Director of Collections to prepare or review and update all animal care AZA accreditation documentation.

    Emergency Situations

    Acts as incident commander in animal escape situations.

    Handles various weaponry and applies terminal force as required.

    Responds to animal emergencies quickly and calculates risks involved for animal, guest and staff.

    Remains calm and creates an atmosphere of calm and control for those dealing with the emergency situation.

    Utilizes emergency chemical immobilization as required.

    Uses physical capture and restraint equipment as required.

    Evaluates the impact of emergency or mock situations on all areas of the Zoo, and suggests improvements to the emergency response systems.

    Guest Relations

    Monitors exhibits and confirms they are presented to maximize a positive guest experience and meet zoo goals for naturalistic environments, cleanliness and maintenance.

    Associates with guests on a regular basis to share information and offer assistance.

    Responds to all guest inquiries, complaints, and comments according to Zoo guest relation procedures.

    Staff Development

    Supervises Zoological managers and keeper staff, and performs duties of subordinates as needed.

    Interviews and hires Zoological managers and keeper staff.

    Participates in interviewing for other positions as requested.

    Promotes a collaborative relationship across the whole AC&H department and with other zoo departments.

    Provides staff coaching and feedback on a regular basis to direct reports (Zoological Managers) and other animal care staff, and coaches coworkers, volunteers and interns and provides informal feedback as needed.

    Performs regular formal evaluations of direct reports and other animal care staff as needed.

    Terminates employees within defined practices and policies.

    Participates regularly in training for development of their leadership skills.

    Provides staff training on use of equipment, safety, goals, standard operating procedures and policies, and animal handling, capture, restraint and training.

    Collaborates with the Director of Collections to develop and implement professional development opportunities and plans for the team that relate to animal care, animal welfare, animal training, behavioral enrichment, AZA programs, public relations, interpersonal skills and leadership skills.

    Encourages staff to present at scientific meetings/workshops and conferences, and to prepare scientific papers and articles for publication.

    Encourages staff to give informal presentations at the zoo and in the community, and for the media as representatives of the zoo.

    Proactively supports and finds opportunities for the team to contribute to conservation programs and participate in conservation field work.

    Assists with development of training for general zoo staff and volunteers.

    Develops departmental goals in accordance with zoo goals and confirms that projects and departmental goals fit into zoo goals and zoo mission.

    Develops and implements individual development plans and ensures their application with regular follow-ups.

    Shares critical information, best practices, and procedures on a consistent basis with staff through meetings that further departmental goals and productivity.

    Facilitates the participation of keepers in research efforts and encourages keepers to become principal investigators.

    Responds to staff questions and concerns.

    Performs regular formal evaluations of direct reports and other animal care staff as needed.

    Terminates employees within defined practices and policies.

    Builds relationships and collaborates with peers at other AZA institutions.

    Operation and Business

    Encourages, supports and exemplifies the highest ethical standards to ensure the health and well being of the animal collection and the continued development of the institution and the profession.

    Ensures that all regulatory standards are met such as USDA Animal Welfare Act, regional, federal and AZA standards, and applicable labor laws.

    Reports animal maintenance issues and potential hazards for staff in a timely manner.

    Schedules staff in a manner that prioritizes operational needs.

    Holds peers accountable for their performance.

    Ensures consistent productive operating practices by identifying areas for potential revenue generation, reduction of costs and more efficient procedures.


    Interacts with all department heads as a member of the Zoo’s senior management team.

    Represents the zoo for public relations and media events on behalf of the department.

    Adheres to the Zoo’s policies and procedures as outlined in the Employee Policy Manual.

    Attends department meetings

    Attends bi-monthly all-employee meetings.

    Attends weekly senior manager group meetings.

    Attends bi-monthly Animal Welfare Committee meetings

    Attends quarterly Animal welfare assessment working group meetings.


    Greets every guest with a smile.

    Thanks guests for supporting/visiting the Zoo.

    Answers phone calls, voice mails, and e-mails promptly.

    Insures the Zoo’s presentation standards for cleanliness and maintenance are met by keeping work areas clean, picking up trash, reporting unsafe or unsightly conditions.

    Maintains a clean neat appearance and adheres to the Zoo’s uniform dress code.

    Takes responsibility to stay informed about happenings at the Zoo, such as reading employee communications and attending meetings.

    Reflects the qualities outlined in the Guest Relations Statement, the Employee Pledge and Core Values.

    Other duties as assigned to maintain efficient and quality zoo operations.


    To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to perform each essential duty satisfactorily. The requirements and environmental characteristics described below are representative of the knowledge, skill, ability, and working and physical elements required of the position. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

    Education and Experience:

    Bachelor’s degree in Life Sciences such as Biology, Zoology, Ecology or closely related discipline.

    Minimum five years experience in animal management in an AZA accredited zoo, aquarium or closely related facility.

    Experience in supervision, management and leadership.

    License, Certification, or Preferred Qualifications:

    Advanced degree in Life Science such as Biology, Zoology, Ecology or closely related discipline is preferred.

    Valid driver’s license with good driving record is desirable.

    Ability to certify in First Aid/CPR/AED.

    Must have current negative TB test and rabies titer and provide documentation, or be willing to have a TB test and rabies titer.

    Hiring contingent on successful LiveScan DOJ background check.

    Knowledge, Skills and Ability:

    Extensive knowledge of animal husbandry and health including an understanding of species and individual specific behavior to assess behavioral and medical situations.

    Working knowledge of the natural history, conservation and husbandry for all animals in the collection.

    Ability to remain calm under stressful situations and ability to lead in time of crisis/emergency.

    Knowledge of USDA Animal Welfare Act, Regional, Federal and AZA standards associated with animal welfare and applicable regulations.

    Knowledge of weaponry use and ability to handle weapons safely.

    Understanding of ZIMS software to maintain institutional animal records.

    Basic computer skills (Word, Excel, Outlook).

    Proven leadership ability.

    Excellent organizational skills.

    Effective oral and written communication skills including the ability to communicate clearly and in a fashion that will create a sense of security in an emergency situation.

    Ability to interact with a team including the ability to gather information and generate consensus.

    Knowledge of systems theory in problem solving and the ability to generate multiple solutions.

    Ability to develop and manage a budget.

    Ability to develop and present formal and informal educational programs.

    Ability to develop productive and friendly relationships at work.

    Ability to interact courteously and respectfully with supervisors, fellow employees, volunteers, and our guests.

    Ability to exercise safe work habits while in proximity of potentially dangerous animals.

    Awareness of, sensitivity to, and empathy with animalS

    Physical Demands & Work Environment:

    Requires the ability to access all areas of the facility, including all animal areas of the zoo fulfilling all requirements of the title.

    Must be able to participate in animal husbandry practices; including the ability to lift 50 lbs. occasionally and 20 lbs or fewer regularly, climb stairs, manipulate tools, and stand/walk for up to two continuous hours.

    Ability to be an active member of the Weapons Team (Training and Emergencies).

    Ability to handle and apply terminal force using various weaponry.

    Ability to apply emergency chemical immobilization.

    Ability to remain calm under stressful situations.

    Ability to work successfully in a shared office with open space.

    Involves working out-of-doors in all weather conditions.

    Ability to work on weekends, for events and holidays.

    Potential availability after-hours for situations or emergencies, regardless of the assigned daily schedule/day of work, based on operational needs.

    Supportive and open employment culture.

    Tuberculosis (TB) Test: This position requires that the selected candidate take and pass or have a current a TB test.

    Tools Used:

    Standard office equipment; telephone, copier, printer, facsimile machine, and calculator

    Personal Computer and software (Word, Excel, Outlook, ZIMS..)

    Two-way Radio

    Hand tools

    Capture equipment