Becoming a Veterinary Behavior Technician
The increasing importance of high quality veterinary care in the United States has resulted in a rise in highly sophisticated treatment techniques as well as a well trained workforce of veterinary professionals to provide those treatments.
Because of the growing number of specialties in veterinary medicine, becoming a specialized veterinary technician is an increasingly attractive career option for vet techs. Although requiring greater experience and training, specialists also enjoy better career and salary options.
Veterinary Behavior Technicians
Among one of the fastest growing veterinary fields is the field of behavioral analysis and modification. Ranging from popular cable TV shows to behavioral modification programs, the idea that behavior can be an important component of an animal’s life is currently widely accepted. Additionally, many aberrant behaviors may actually be a sign of a mental or physical condition that might require veterinary intervention.
Because of this, a veterinary behavior technician is skilled in evaluating and handling various forms of behavior analysis and modification under the supervision of a veterinarian. These duties can include the following:
- Observing animals for unusual behaviors and assisting the veterinarian in determining the cause of those behaviors.
- Once the veterinarian has created a behavior modification plan, assisting the veterinarian in carrying out the plan, while evaluating the results.
- Helping socialize hostile or frightened animals.
- Assisting the veterinarian in educating the public about humane systems of behavior modification for pets and livestock.
The Importance of Humane Methods of Behavior Modification
An important part of the duties of a veterinary technician specialist in behavior is assisting vets and other professionals in demonstrating the value of humane methods of behavior modification. In the past, ignorant individuals have often caused great suffering due to their inability to understand how to best work with their animals. By working to eliminate this problem, veterinary technical specialists in behavior can improve the owner-pet relationship and reduce deliberate or inadvertent cruelty to animals.
Becoming a Veterinary Behavior Technician
Becoming a certified vet tech specializing in behavior requires certification by the Academy of Veterinary Behavior Technicians (AVBT), which evaluates and certifies candidates. This certification requires a number of steps:
- Proof of graduation from an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredited veterinary technical program.
- Proof of previous employment, including no less than three years or 4,000 hours or work in the field of animal behavior, including clinical or research experience. This experience must date no more than five years before the date of application.
- A minimum of 40 hours of approved continuing education courses covering the nature and modification of animal behavior.
- A case log covering at least 50 clinical cases.
- Alternately, the case logs may be replaced by one year of documented behavior research.
- Five detailed case reports covering behavior analysis and modification.
- Two letters of recommendation from a VTS (Behavior) member, a supporting veterinarian, or a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behavior.
- Finally, the candidate must be a member in good standing of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians (NAVTA) and the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians (SVBT).
In every case, the candidate should make certain to verify that his materials are acceptable to the AVBT in order to avoid having his or her application rejected.
The Exam to Become a Veterinary Behavior Technician
The AVBT administers the exam required to become a veterinary behavior technician. This exam requires the candidate to demonstrate their practical and academic knowledge of animal behavior in order to pass the test.
The ABVT provides a recommended reading list for the exam, allowing all candidates to adequately prepare for the test itself. While candidates can retake the test, they must reapply and pay the application fee again, so it is important that a candidate only take the test when he or she feels fully prepared to pass it.
The Benefits of Becoming a Certified Veterinary Behavior Technician
The primary benefit of certification is that it demonstrates that the technician has exhibited a high level of expertise in his or her specialty. The growing acknowledgment of the importance of humane behavior modification techniques in pet and livestock management have certified vet techs that specialize in behavior management an increasingly important component of modern veterinary practices.
This opens up numerous potential fields of employment in a variety of professional settings. Ranging from behavioral specialists in zoos to private practices specializing in assisting individuals and families to effectively modify inappropriate or destructive behavior in their pets, veterinary behavior technicians have a wide variety of well compensated and rewarding careers open to them.
The modern veterinary field is a dynamic and respected part of American society. Certified veterinary behavior technicians have an opportunity to become a vital component in a specialty that is rapidly growing in importance and size alike. Currently, veterinary technicians should strongly consider becoming certified behavior technicians in order to take advantage of the improved career and salary options available to these specialists.