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Creating a Career Ladder Through Certification

For years, many devoted managers in animal welfare have been committed to the field and to their work, but have had no clear means of professional advancement. What does a career ladder look like in animal sheltering?

In 2002, industry leader members of the Society of Animal Welfare Administrators (SAWA) embarked on an effort to make that clearer, and to provide a means to measure the knowledge and skills of shelter professionals. They looked into the future and saw the possibility of respected, widespread, highly educated professionals working together to save more animals’ lives. Volunteers worked with an expert to design a leadership development program unique to animal welfare, care, and control: the Certified Animal Welfare Administrator (CAWA) accreditation program.

Implemented in 2004, the accreditation program allows qualified professionals (both SAWA and non-SAWA members) to test themselves by meeting rigorous standards set by peer professionals. One must pass a challenging exam to achieve the CAWA distinction. Those who have the knowledge to pass the test exhibit advanced skills in leadership, administration, management, personnel supervision, public relations, fundraising, animal care and treatment, and reasoning.

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