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Get Certified

The Certified Animal Welfare Administrator exam will be offered next at the Society of Animal Welfare Administrators conference in Nashville, Tennessee, in November 2006. The application period for the November exam begins in August. Visit the certification program website for more information.

To work in this industry, some say, you’ve got to be certifiable. Until recently, though, there was never a way to prove that. But thanks to the hard work of the Society of Animal Welfare Administrators (SAWA), dozens of people in our field are now certified—not as psychiatric patients but as professionals in their discipline.

Last November, SAWA administered the second Certified Animal Welfare Administrator (CAWA) test at its training conference in Denver. To prepare for the challenging exam, a number of shelter directors and managers studied books and other resources from a recommended reading list. Those who passed can’t rest on their laurels; to keep their certification current, they must earn additional training units on an ongoing basis.

SAWA officials and members have expended a considerable amount of time and resources in developing this groundbreaking program over the last several years, even procuring the help of a California firm that specializes in certification programs. Professional certification for executive directors and other managers in this field is long overdue, and I commend SAWA for taking on such a formidable project.

A number of national animal welfare groups, including The HSUS, have already tried to certify agencies instead of individuals. But the success of such programs was limited because, as we all know, the viability of an animal welfare organization depends largely on the people who lead it; when a good director or manager moves on, the agency he leaves behind can go from a hero to a zero. We cannot certify buildings, but SAWA can certify people who make those buildings do what they were designed to do.

Yes, this is just the beginning, and surely the process will continue to evolve. But we have to start somewhere, and this program shows more promise than previous efforts.

The next step is to encourage all qualified animal welfare professionals to get moving and take the exam. Certification has the potential to make those who obtain it more valuable in the marketplace. When boards of directors and headhunting firms find out about the program, your participation in it will give you an edge in competing for employment. More importantly, however, becoming a Certified Animal Welfare Administrator will carry a certain weight in your community, showing how much you know about services for animals and citizens. Getting certified also means you care enough to stretch the limits of your potential, an attitude that will transcend to the creation of progressive programs for addressing the toughest problems faced by the animal welfare community in the 21st century.

For complete details about the next test, visit the SAWA website at and click on “certification.” Then hit the books and take the test. It will benefit you as well as the people and animals we serve. 

John M. Snyder is the Vice President for The HSUS Companion Animals section.


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