The ASPCA strives to maintain a COVID-free workplace. To that end, being fully vaccinated is a condition of employment for all ASPCA employees, including new hires. ASPCA makes reasonable accommodations for qualified applicants with disabilities or sincerely held religious beliefs that prohibit a person from being vaccinated.
The ARC (Animal Recovery Center) recovers and rehabilitates animals admitted through the NYPD, the ASPCA’s Humane Law Enforcement (HLE), and Community Engagement (CE) programs, and to prepare them for placement whenever possible.
The Feline Behavior Specialist (the Specialist) works with the Director, Feline Behavior to provide safe, high-quality behavioral support from intake to outcome or discharge, in accordance with organizational protocols. The Specialist will assist with assessments, behavior modification, enrichment and placement recommendations for cats seized by the New York City Police Department or surrendered through the ASPCA’s Community Engagement (CE) Program. The cats from these cases are often severely undersocialized and potentially dangerous; prior experience handling and working with fearful and aggressive animals is required. The Specialist will help develop enrichment/behavior modification protocols for individual animals and coordinate with caretakers to facilitate the delivery of these interventions. The animals may be housed at various locations including the ASPCA Animal Recovery Center (ARC), partner veterinary clinics and boarding kennels.
The Specialist supports, communicates, and collaborates with staff in ARC, CARE, Adoptions, the Animal Hospital (AAH) and Forensics, in order to optimize the health and welfare of animals and, whenever possible, to set them up for success in a new home. The Specialist also provides on-scene support for large scale animal cases and search warrant executions.
Include, but are not limited to:
Provide Safe Behavior Response, Assessment, and Support: (80%)
- Provide behavior support and expertise for all NYPD and CE cat intakes
- Ensure timely evaluation of animals and appropriate documentation of evaluations for each animal, including recommendations for disposition and placement
- Identify behavior concerns and address them by coming up with appropriate behavior modification plans alongside the team
- Implement behavior modification and treatment plans for all animals
- Clearly communicate the results of each animal’s assessment, including behavioral prognosis, safe handling guidelines, plan for behavior modification and enrichment, and the animal’s suitability for foster and placement
- Create, execute, and assign enrichment, training and behavior modification for animals on-site, at boarding partners, and in foster homes for behavior treatment; monitor and track their implementation and effectiveness.
- Advise on appropriate housing and other forms of environmental enrichment for ARC cats.
- Ensure timely and consistent delivery of specialized low stress handling as required for intake, medical handling and/or procedures.
- Respond to and manage emergent behavior needs as they arise and communicate revised handling/daily care plans and safety measures to ensure staff safety
- Liaise with NYPD officers upon intake of animals to gather behavioral histories and information on the animals’ environment/living conditions so that this information may be considered in developing safe animal handling guidelines and in determining each animal’s behavioral prognosis
- With the Director, provide behavioral information to inform appropriate disposition decisions (foster, special placement, euthanasia, etc.)
- Support foster parents on a regular basis to ensure all animals and foster parents are set up for success. May include weekly zoom calls to provide live coaching for assigned behavior modification.
- Use active listening and respectful dialogue to answer questions and help staff understand behavioral signs that indicate potential fear, aggression and/or poor quality of life
- Assist in transition, acclimation, and continuity of care during various stages of rehabilitation process including transitions from the field, AAH, ARC to Adoptions
- Assign behavior treatments for the volunteer cat behavior program; provide feedback to the volunteers to help develop their skills and improve treatment sessions
- Respond timely to behavior observation reports and concerns voiced by direct care staff
- Provide managerial support to the ARC administrative volunteer and assign weekly tasks
- Utilize multiple databases to ensure animal records are complete and up to date, including but not limited to treatment notes, behavior observation reports, foster notes, behavioral medication, history of location changes, and evaluations
- Collaborate with members of various departments including, but not limited to, CE, Adoption Center, and AAH as needed
Train and Coach: (20%)
- Ensure the team has a deep understanding of the importance of behavioral welfare in holistic care and be a leader in the “Everyone is on the Behavior team” model; empower staff and volunteers to innovate in ways that improve behavioral care
- Coach staff and qualified volunteers, when appropriate, in assisting with behavior modification and enrichment programs
- Contribute to the creation of written and video training materials in animal behavior, low stress handling, recognizing and responding to the signs of stress in animals, and other relevant topics as requested
- Participate in staff training and ongoing coaching about animal behavior (safe and low stress handling, enrichment, socialization, body language, etc.)
- Direct staff and volunteers in behavior tasks, supporting holistic care and prioritizing behavioral welfare
- BS or BA preferred
- High School degree or GED required
- Certification from a reputable behavior professional program (i.e. CCPDT, IAABC) or comparable work experience
- Expertise in feline behavior and hands-on experience working with felines in a low stress manner strongly preferred
- Fundamental grasp of animal learning theory and its applications
- Minimum of 2 years experience working as a professional trainer/behaviorist, handling, evaluating and conducting behavior modification for behaviorally compromised animals required
- At least one year experience in animal shelter required
- Experience working with fearful cats strongly preferred
- Canine handling and behavior skills a plus
- Safe and humane animal handling skills
- Outstanding defensive handling skills
- Outstanding ability to handle animals for examinations and medical procedures using the least restraint possible
- Able to work closely with behaviorally compromised animals and feel comfortable making euthanasia decisions and in some instances, assisting with the euthanasia of those animals.
- Sophisticated animal training and behavior modification abilities
- Demonstrates high professional standards, including being guided by science rather than personal experience and opinion. Adept critical thinker.
- Must be a self-guided, creative and flexible individual who performs well with minimal supervision.
- Thrives in a fast paced, dynamic and demanding environment
- Able to adjust quickly, calmly, and efficiently to changes in direction and re-prioritize work
- Excellent written and oral communication skills; able to communicate clearly, effectively, sensitively and professionally, with staff at all levels
- Excellent organizational and time management skills
- Excellent ability to provide timely and professional communication and service to internal and external stakeholders
- Excellent presentation and teaching skills
- Excellent and demonstrated ability to be a team player
- Proficient in Microsoft Word, Excel and Power Point
- Willing to learn from mistakes; enjoys problem solving and identifying ways to improve.
- Willing to accept responsibility for sustaining a healthy work-life balance.
- Capable of standing for 8 or more hours and bending, crouching, kneeling and moving freely to perform responsibilities that include handling potentially dangerous animals in stressful conditions.
- Willing to occasionally work in challenging conditions, including harsh temperatures or unsanitary environments. Able to wear appropriate protective gear, including personal protective equipment and protective masks. Potential situations include:
- excessive noise
- uneven walking surfaces
- inclement weather
- chemical and biological hazards, such as feces and blood
- constructed spaces with narrow passageways
- strong odors and excessive dirt or dust
- Able and willing to work flexible hours, long days, and weekends, as required; available to be on-call for last minute deployments.
- May occasionally have to lift as much as 60 lbs
- Fear Free® certification required or within 30 days of employment
- Complete Low Stress Handling University Silver Level Certification within 6 months of hire
- Weekends, some evenings, and some holidays are required
- Must have flexibility in schedule to accommodate program needs
- Deployment and travel with Behavioral Sciences Team may be required multiple times a year
- Must demonstrate the ability to interact effectively with ASPCA employees, clients and the public.
All duties and responsibilities are subject to change due to specific requirements of ASPCA/NYPD Partnership program needs
- Promotes and ensures the continual and consistent practice of organizational core values:
- Has Commitment and dedication to improving the lives of animals
- Demonstrates Ownership and feels responsible for outcomes
- Believes in Team – that we are stronger together
- Seeks to Elevate others and reimagine what is possible
- Focuses on Impact, specifically making change for animals
We encourage a candidate who demonstrates outstanding inter-personal communication and the ability to work in a team or independently, with a high degree of integrity and accountability. This position welcomes a candidate with a sense of humor that can balance flexibility and enthusiasm and thrives on detail in a dynamic, fast-paced environment. This is a full-time position. Weekends and some holidays are required. Position will require occasional flexibility.