Animal rescue officer requirements and FAQs
We're the only animal welfare charity that provides trained inspectors to investigate and rescue animals in England and Wales.
The purpose of the animal rescue officer role is to alleviate the suffering of animals by investigating alleged reports of animal cruelty, neglect or injury and taking and collecting and rescuing sick, injured or stranded animals to a place of safety.
The role also exists to proactively prevent or reduce the incidence of animal cruelty and neglect through positive interactions with members of the public, and through education and advice to owners.
Is it the right role for you?
The role of an animal rescue officer can be hugely rewarding in terms of making a real difference to the well-being of animals and in educating owners who care for them. However, it's also extremely demanding and specialised. It has unique demands, many of which may be unexpected until you gain first-hand knowledge of what is required.
Animal rescue officers are lone workers and this brings significant challenges both physically and mentally. Whilst we ensure we support our rescue workers who work alone, it's essential that applicants consider how they manage this way of working and are confident that they have the skills to work independently.
Please consider before continuing with your application
The emphasis of the job involves working with people as well as animals. Strong interpersonal skills are essential and you will require the temperament to cope with pressure and some extremely emotional and stressful situations.
Living in applied for location
By applying for a vacancy you are accepting that you will be residing within the advertised area by the commencement of the training course, 8 November 2021.
The physical demands of the Animal Rescue role are intense. At times, you will work at heights, on and from ladders and roofs. You should expect to work in confined areas, e.g. cramped loft or roof spaces, to perform vital animal rescues and other duties.
The practical aspects of the work require the lifting, carrying and moving of equipment and animals. You should consider that dogs, for example, may weigh 30-40kg, and sheep more than 70kg. You will need to be capable of and comfortable with intermittent, highly physical activity.
On occasion, the position demands working on flat water, alongside tow-paths, sea cliffs, and from boats on tidal and flowing water. You should be satisfied that, although wearing a life-jacket or buoyancy-aid, you will not endanger your, or anyone else's life, by your inability to swim whilst wearing outdoor clothing. You should be a strong swimmer and be able to confidently swim in flat water.
Successful applicants will undergo a swimming assessment early in the training, following appointment; an inability to complete the assessment will result in the termination of employment.
The role is highly rewarding but the psychological demands can be challenging. Animal Rescue Officers work alone, in unfamiliar areas night and day, and manage aggressive, confrontational and emotionally disturbing situations.
You will regularly be required to work at weekends on bank holidays and in the evenings, and should carefully consider any interests or arrangements you may have that would be affected by working unsociable hours.
You must hold a full UK driving licence when you complete your application and be an experienced driver (Inspectors annually drive in excess of 25,000 business miles in a manual transmission van in both urban and rural conditions). An external assessor will measure your driving ability early in the course. An inability to pass the assessment will result in the termination of employment.
Business or financial connections with animals
If you or your family or partner have any business or financial connection with animals, you are required to disclose it when you complete your application form so that we can consider any potential or perceived conflict with the RSPCA's policies or reputation.
Sometimes it will be necessary to euthanase (put to sleep) an animal to prevent further suffering. This is not a decision we take lightly and you will be given full training and support on this so you can be fully informed and confident in such challenging situations.
As part of the training, you will be assessed by a combination of practical and written assessments. A failure to meet the required pass mark in any assessment will result in the termination of employment.
Essential application criteria
- You will have a passion for animal welfare and for promoting and achieving the aims of the RSPCA is essential
- You need to be 17 or over to apply, and 18 by the time you start the course. There's no upper age limit
- You need to be a British citizen, EU/EEA national or, a foreign national, with no restrictions on your stay in the UK
- Level 2 qualification in English Language at GCSE grade C or above, or Grades 4-9. If you have a qualification that was awarded outside of England or Wales, you can check whether your qualifications are equivalent on gov.uk.
- A full, current, UK licence to drive a car with a manual gearbox
- The ability to swim 50 metres fully clothed within 2.5 minutes
- Able and comfortable with working at heights and from ladders
- A good level of physical fitness
- Ability to be resilient in emotionally charged and challenging situations
- Excellent organisational and time management
- Strong verbal and written communication and influencing skills
- Confident with emerging technology and paperwork
Desirable application criteria
- interacting with members of the public who are distressed or in difficult circumstances
- working with animals in some capacity
- objection handling, dealing with conflict and confrontation
- working in a lone worker field based role
NB: This position is subject to a standard disclosure from the Disclosure & Barring Service and a check will be made against the Society's animal welfare prosecutions database as part of the Society's pre-employment checks. Successful candidates will be asked to provide permission for this check as part of their Criminal Record Declaration.
What's in it for you
You'll have an opportunity to work for the largest animal welfare charity in England and Wales. An animal rescue officer is an incredibly important and rewarding role.
No two days are ever the same and there's no better feeling knowing you've made a real difference to the lives of animals.
Here are just a few of our many animal rescue officer success stories:
- Otter had an electric fence run-in
- Heron found trapped in pond netting
- Fox tangled in football netting
- Owl rescued from a disused building
Find out more by following our Frontline Twitter.
We value and recognise our employees' contribution and are proud to offer an extensive benefits package including:
- 35 hours standard working week
- 25 days annual leave plus bank holidays increasing to 30 days with service
- full uniform and vehicle
- a generous pension scheme with associated life assurance and group income protection scheme
- access to a private healthcare scheme
- 24/7 employee assistance programme support for professional development after qualifying period
All online information and documents are available in alternative formats, including Braille and large font, upon request from the Resourcing team at email@example.com.
Frequently asked questions
I want to become an RSPCA Animal Rescue Officer - how do I apply?
Once the ARO vacancies are live you'll be asked to complete an online application form which will be linked on the job vacancies web page. The form will take between 10-20 minutes to complete and will need to be completed in one session. The form is available in different formats upon request from the resourcing team, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do I have to live within the same area of the location that I am applying for?
To be considered for this role, you must live within a reasonable travelling distance (30 minutes) of the group area you are applying to.
Can I apply for multiple locations?
When completing the application form you will only be able to select one location. We recommend you apply where you are currently based or very local to (within 30 minutes or less). If you're close to multiple vacancies, the resourcing team may take your application into consideration for these too.
Can I apply if I am an overseas national?
In line with the requirements of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 you must be eligible to live and work in the United Kingdom to become an RSPCA Animal Rescue Officer, with no restrictions on your stay. We are currently unable to provide visa sponsorship.
I have a criminal record, will this prevent me from becoming an RSPCA Animal Rescue Officer?
Your criminal conviction doesn't automatically mean your application will be rejected.
We're committed to equality of opportunity for all job applicants and aims to select people for employment on the basis of their individual skills, abilities, experience, knowledge and, where appropriate, qualifications and training.
All cases will be examined on an individual basis, taking the following into consideration:
- Whether the conviction is relevant to the position applied for
- The seriousness of any offence revealed
- The age of the applicant at the time of the offence(s)
- The length of time since the offence(s) occurred
- Whether the applicant has a pattern of offending behaviour
- The circumstances surrounding the offence(s), and the explanation(s) offered by the person concerned
- Whether the application circumstances have changed since the offending behaviour
If you're successful throughout the selection process, all of the facts will be considered and discussed with you before an offer of employment is confirmed.
It's important, to be honest. Failure to disclose information could result in the withdrawal of an offer of employment.
How much does an RSPCA Animal Rescue Officer earn?
£22,620 rising to £23,660 on successful completion of training course (inclusive of 4% shift allowance) - plus London Weighting Allowance where applicable.
What are the typical hours of an RSPCA Animal Rescue Officer?
You'll regularly be required to work at weekends on bank holidays and in the evenings, and should carefully consider any interests or arrangements you may have that would be affected by working unsociable hours. We operate a roster which includes a shift pattern that operates 7 days a week, from 7am to 10pm. Each officer will be allocated to a roster line which will equate to a 8hr working day (1hr unpaid break), averaged over a normal 35 hour working week. The shift pattern includes rostered days off but may not always be a weekend.
What are the benefits of becoming an RSPCA Animal Rescue Officer?
You'll have an opportunity to work for the largest animal welfare charity in England and Wales. An Animal Rescue Officer is an incredibly important and rewarding role.
No two days are ever the same and there's no better feeling knowing you've made a real difference to the lives of animals. We value and recognise our employees' contribution and are proud to offer an extensive benefits package including:
- 35 hours standard working week
- 25 days annual leave plus bank holidays increasing to 30 days with service
- full uniform and vehicle
- a generous pension scheme with associated life assurance and group income protection scheme access to a private healthcare scheme
- 24/7 employee assistance programme
- support for professional development after qualifying period
Are there any age restrictions to becoming an RSPCA Animal Rescue Officer?
You need to be 17 or over to apply, and 18 by the time you start the course. There's no upper age limit.
What are the physical elements of the role, and how physically fit do I really need to be?
Animal Rescue Officers will be trained and equipped to rescue animals in a variety of situations. The work can involve ladders against trees or at the roof level of properties. You will be called upon to work on cliff or quarry ledges. You may be called upon to rescue animals in confined positions, for example roof spaces, under floors, from drains.
You will need the ability to swim 50 metres fully clothed within 2.5 minutes by the start of the training course. If you're currently unable to swim or in the process of learning, your application will not be affected by this - as long as you are able to meet the swimming requirement detailed above by the start of the training course.
You can visit our frontline Twitter for examples of what our Inspectorate deal with on a daily basis.
Do I need any formal academic qualifications to become an RSPCA Animal Rescue Officer?
You'll need a Level 2 qualification in English Language at GCSE grade C or above, or Grades 4-9. If you have a qualification that was awarded outside of England or Wales, you can check whether your qualifications are equivalent on gov.uk.
Will I be working alone?
The role is highly rewarding but the psychological demands are challenging. Animal Rescue Officers work alone, in unfamiliar areas night and day, and manage aggressive, confrontational and emotionally disturbing situations.
Will I be home-based or working from an office?
You will be working as part of a regional group although you will be primarily home based. This will require you to undertake extensive travelling both within your designated area and outside for the proper performance of your duties. You will not be required to work outside of the UK.
Are there any previous medical issues that may affect me joining the RSPCA as an Animal Rescue Officer?
Appointed candidates will be required to attend an occupational health and functional assessment in London where we will determine your suitability for the needs of the role.
I have a disability. Would this prevent me from becoming an RSPCA Animal Rescue Officer?
We strongly believe in being an innovative, diverse, and inclusive organisation and are proud to be Disability Confident Employer. As part of the application process, we will invite you to apply for the role under the Disability Confident Scheme if you are eligible. If you are likely to require any adjustments for the recruitment process, we ask that you mention this when completing the form.
Do I need a driving licence and to be able to drive to become an RSPCA Animal Rescue Officer?
You must hold a full UK driving licence when you complete your application and be a confident driver (AROs annually drive in excess of 25,000 business miles in a manual transmission van in both urban and rural conditions). An external assessor will measure your driving ability early in the course. An inability to pass the assessment will result in the termination of employment.
I don't have my full driving license yet as I'm waiting to take my test. Can I still apply?
AROs need to have a full manual license by the time the training course begins on 25 April 2022. The nature of the role will require you to drive a van to respond to calls in various locations within your region (and sometimes further afield). If you pass your test and obtain your licence by the start of the training course, we would be able to accept an application from you. If by 25 April 2022, you still only had a provisional licence we unfortunately would not be able to take your application any further and would encourage you to apply for the next round of recruitment.
Do RSPCA Animal Rescue Officers get company cars?
As the role will involve transporting animals and carrying equipment, you will be allocated an RSPCA manual transmission van.
What's the start date and how long does training take?
Please refer to the vacancies page for the current campaign's projected start date. Technical training modules run consecutively over a period of 16 weeks. Accommodation will be provided during your training. This allows for centralised training, including workshops and tutorials at appropriate venues in England and Wales. It is estimated that approximately 6 of the 16 weeks will involve being away from home for all or some of the week.
What happens if I fail an assessment or test in training?
The training programme is designed to support you in your development to becoming an Animal Rescue Officer. There will be an opportunity for anyone to retake an assessment where necessary.
If I fail a particular stage of the recruitment process, can I have another chance to complete the stage?
Due to the high volume of applications received, we are unable to offer second attempts once selection processes have been completed. We would invite you to apply again to the next round of recruitment for this role - keep your eyes peeled!
When is the closing date? I saw a post a few days ago for a position in X location but it's no longer on the website, what happened?
Early applications are encouraged for the Animal Rescue Officer position. The role is highly competitive and we anticipate receiving a high volume of applications again this year. As such, we'll be closing advertised positions as soon as sufficient applications have been received. Apply now to avoid disappointment!
What if I don't have a Level 2 qualification in English Language at GCSE grade C or above, or Grades 4-9 (or equivalent qualification), but meet all the other criteria?
Due to the anticipated high volume of applications, we are asking for this as a minimum qualification. Unfortunately we are unable to make any exceptions to this essential shortlisting criteria. If you were able to attain the qualification in future we would absolutely welcome you to apply for the next round of recruitment.
What if I'm not sure whether my qualifications are eligible?
I can't make the proposed start date of the training course - can my offer be moved to an alternate course?
We currently only have the course scheduled for this campaign (please refer to the vacancies page) and any successful candidates must be available for commencement on the advertised start date. We will be happy to keep your details and remain in touch with you should we have any further courses scheduled later in the year. Please note you may have to complete all or some of the application and recruitment processes to be considered.
I've got a pre-booked holiday, can I still take it?
Due to the intensity of the training course, no leave will be permitted during the 16 weeks, aside from exceptional circumstances. Any pre-booked leave will need to be cancelled or amended.