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?

Animal rescue officer with a horse © RSPCAThe 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

Communication skills

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.

Physical ability

Animal rescue officer getting into tight space © RSPCAThe 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.

Strong swimmer

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.

Unsociable hours

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.

Driving licence

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.

Euthanasia

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.

Assessments

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

Experience of:

  • 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

ARO carrying an animal cage © RSPCAYou'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:

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 resourcingteam@rspca.org.uk.

Frequently asked questions

I want to become an RSPCA Animal Rescue Officer - how do I apply?

Please check back to our vacancies page for updates on our next Animal Rescue Officer recruitment campaign. The form is available in different formats upon request from the Resourcing Team resourcingteam@rspca.org.uk.

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 of the group area you are applying to.

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. As we are a charity, we're unable to provide visa sponsorship.

I have a criminal record, will this prevent me from becoming an RSPCA Animal Rescue Officer?

Due to the nature of the work, a conviction (or formal caution within the past ten years) for a number of criminal offences, will mean a rejection of your application. The offences include (but not exhaustively) violent crime, public order, corruption or dishonesty.

Consideration may also be given to any previous convictions or cautions and in particular, any conviction which involves the use of a firearm and, offences involving violence, or offences involving dishonesty or a disregard for public safety.

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

This post is not protected by the Act. You will be required to declare details of all convictions and police cautions, including those regarded as 'spent' under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

What are the typical hours of an RSPCA Animal Rescue Officer?

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.

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.

How physically fit do you really need to be to become an RSPCA Animal Rescue Officer?

You will need the ability to swim 50 metres fully clothed within 2.5 minutes

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. You will, however, be working as part of a wider team.

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 homebased. 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.

What are the entry and selection tests?

The first stage of the process will involve verbal and numerical reasoning assessments. Verbal assessments test your ability to identify relevant information and draw logical conclusions from written information. Numerical assessments test your ability to perform calculations and evaluate and interpret numerical information to solve problems.

If you are successful at this stage, you will be invited to complete a one-way video interview via software called Sonru.

If you are selected after completing your Sonru video interview, you will be invited to complete a psychometric assessment to explore your interests, values and motivations, analysing how your character and behaviour fits with the role and the RSPCA.

The final stage of the process will be an online video interview with a panel of RSPCA colleagues. These interviews will be conducted via Google Meet during w/c 6 September 2021.

See our timetable for the process stages and dates

Why does the RSPCA use online recruitment tests?

We use psychometric tests alongside other assessment methods (such as application forms, evidence of technical skills and interviews) to assess aptitude, potential and whether a person meets the requirements of a particular job level.

Using tests can:

  • allow candidates to demonstrate their strengths,
  • provide recruiters with objective assessments against relevant criteria, and
  • identify where candidates could develop their skills.

Provided they are used appropriately, our tests are fair and free from bias or discrimination.

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 Committed.

As part of the application process, we'll invite you to apply for the role under the Disability Confident Scheme if you're eligible. If you're 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 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 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.

Do RSPCA Animal Rescue Officers get company cars?

As the role will involve transporting animals and carrying equipment, you will be allocated an RSPCA van.

How long does training take?

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.

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 will I find out if I have been selected?

The closing date for applications was Friday 23rd July 2021. We will be in touch with successful candidates during w/c 26th July to invite them to the next stage of the process. Please note all timelines are subject to unforeseen change.

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