free animal courses online

Several educational institutions and online sites offer free animal courses online in the form of printed lecture materials or videos. Students have online access to lecture notes, class assignments and reading assignments; however, students are responsible for obtaining their own textbooks. Some animal studies courses online offer quizzes and exams, often without answer keys. Courses do not conclude with grades or academic credit, although there are some online animal courses with certificates.

List of Free Animal Care Courses Online

Ohio State University (OSU)

OSU offers multiple accredited animal care courses, such as:

  • Basic Indoor Cat Needs contains suggestions on grooming, feeding, treating feline health issues and making your home cat friendly. It also offers ideas on crate training and litter boxes. To make reading easier, the training can be downloaded as one PDF file.
  • Changes in Aging Pets provides information on aging dogs and age-related medical conditions, as well as how pet owners can recognize and deal with aging pet conditions. Readers learn what symptoms to look for in their dogs and how best to deal with them. The article also has a section on cognitive dysfunction syndrome (aka dementia) that includes information on diagnosis, treatment and prognosis.
  • For Cat Owners: Problem Solving includes topics on providing cats with activities, dealing with cat anxiety or separation anxiety, cat conflicts and determining cat personalities. Spraying, marking and removing cat urine is also discussed in this guide.

This website offers multiple animal care training programs, including:

  • Caring for Your Senior Bird covers bird life spans and health requirements or special needs for geriatric/elderly birds. This educational guide, which can be downloaded as a PDF, offers information on nutritional needs, weight issues and bird-related health issues. Health topics covered include liver disease, heart and respiratory disease, eyes, nervous system, skin and kidney disease. Students can also access a products page featuring first aid supplies and medications for birds.
  • Caring for Your Senior Rabbit provides information on nutritional needs, exercise, mobility and general health. Additionally, readers can click on links in this small animal care course to find more in-depth information on specific food for rabbits based on needs and age, as well as information on cages and playpens. This guide also offers information on possible health problems, such as cancers, nervous system disorders and chronic respiratory diseases.

American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)

AVMA offers multiple animal care home study courses, such as:

  • First Aid Tips for Pet Owners covers a variety of topics from basic first aid and traveling with a pet to handling natural disasters with a pet. Readers also learn what first aid supplies pet owners need, how to administer first aid and how to determine if an emergency requires medical care.
  • Cold Weather Animal Safety discusses the dangers of cold weather for pets, judging how much time is okay for animals to stay outdoors, and the many ways to keep animals safe when it’s cold outside. It is one of the most helpful free online pet care courses for those who live in cold weather.

Cats International

  • Natural Cat Behavior offers information to individuals who own or plan to own a cat, which makes it one of the most useful cat care courses online. It offers a variety of feline-related topics that include introducing cats to dogs, cat spraying, providing cats with routines and feline grooming. There’s also a section on introducing the family cat to a new baby in the home. New cat owners may find this feline information helpful in making their home cat friendly.

World Chelonian Trust

  • Turtle and Tortoise Care Sheets is one of those animal care courses from home that offer a collection of information sheets on caring for various species of turtles and tortoises. The site, with a mixture of text and animal images, offers readers the choice of searching for a specific turtle by its common name or species name. The care sheets cover topics such as food, health and hibernation. Printable care sheets are also available. If readers still have questions after reading the care sheets, they can check out the site’s FAQs section.

Free Online Wildlife Rehabilitation Certificate Courses

Unfortunately, free online animal courses with certificates of completion are few and far between. The best way to learn animal rehabilitation for free may be by volunteering at a local wildlife shelter. The following courses do offer animal care certificate programs. Although the ASPCA courses are free of charge, the other services offer certificates for a fee.


The ASPCA offers a wide range of free courses focused on rehabilitating animals that have been abused or neglected by previous owners. These include animal handling courses. Courses offered by the ASPCA cover topics like Animal Law Enforcement, Behavioral Rehabilitation, and National Field Response Courses. These courses are free to take, and you simply need to log in or register to enroll. These courses are approved by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.


EdX is an online organization that offers free courses in a wide variety of topics. Their course titled Introduction to Animal Behavior will give you the fundamental skills that you need to learn how to take care of animals safely and effectively. This course is free to enroll in, but it costs an additional $49 in order to receive a verified certificate of completion.

Center for Wildlife Studies

The Center for Wildlife Studies (CWS) offers a range of courses on animal rehabilitation, which range from transdisciplinary human-wildlife conflict management to open standards for the practice of conservation. While these courses will provide valuable skills in the field of animal care, they are expensive, ranging from $400 to $550 per course.

What is Animal Behavior and Welfare?

Animal behavior and welfare are interconnected fields that play a significant role in understanding and improving the lives of animals, both domestic and wild. These disciplines encompass the study of how animals behave, their emotions, and the conditions in which they live. Animal welfare focuses on the well-being of animals and seeks to ensure that they are treated with respect, dignity, and compassion.

The Science of Animal Behavior

Understanding animal behavior is essential for various reasons, including:

  1. Conservation: Studying the behavior of wild animals helps conservationists make informed decisions about preserving species and their habitats. By understanding how animals interact with their environment, we can better protect them from threats such as habitat destruction, climate change, and poaching.
  2. Animal Husbandry: In agriculture, knowledge of animal behavior is crucial for efficient and ethical livestock management. It helps in developing better farming practices that ensure the health and well-being of animals, while also improving productivity.
  3. Companion Animals: For pet owners, understanding their pets’ behavior can lead to more satisfying and healthier relationships with their animals. It can also aid in identifying and addressing behavioral issues.
  4. Research: Animal behavior research is essential in various scientific disciplines, including psychology, ecology, and ethology. It contributes to our understanding of evolution, cognition, and the mind-body relationship.

The Basics of Animal Welfare

Animal welfare, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with assessing and improving the quality of life for animals. It covers a broad spectrum of issues, including:

  1. Physical Health: Ensuring that animals have access to proper nutrition, clean water, shelter, and veterinary care.
  2. Psychological Well-being: Addressing the emotional and mental aspects of animal welfare, such as stress, anxiety, and the provision of mental stimulation.
  3. Freedom from Harm: Protecting animals from unnecessary suffering, cruelty, and abuse.
  4. Freedom to Express Natural Behaviors: Allowing animals to engage in their natural behaviors and activities.
  5. Social Well-being: Recognizing that many animals are social beings, living in groups or pairs, and addressing their social needs.

What is the Subject of Animal Welfare?

The subject of animal welfare encompasses a wide range of topics, as it relates to the physical and emotional well-being of animals. These topics include:

1. Legislation and Ethics

One significant aspect of animal welfare is the development and enforcement of laws and regulations to protect animals. This includes animal cruelty laws, regulations for the treatment of livestock, and legislation governing the use of animals in research. Ethical considerations also play a crucial role, as they shape our moral obligations toward animals.

2. Animal Husbandry

The care and management of domesticated animals, such as livestock and pets, are essential subjects in animal welfare. This involves ensuring that animals are provided with proper nutrition, clean living conditions, and access to veterinary care.

3. Wildlife Conservation

Animal welfare extends to wildlife conservation efforts. This includes protecting natural habitats, preventing poaching, and providing care for injured or orphaned wild animals. Conservationists work to ensure that wild animals can live free from human-induced harm.

4. Research Ethics

Animals are used in scientific research to advance human knowledge and medical treatments. Ensuring the ethical treatment of research animals is a vital aspect of animal welfare. This includes minimizing pain and distress and adhering to strict guidelines and regulations.

5. Companion Animals

The welfare of pets and companion animals is another significant focus of animal welfare. This includes promoting responsible pet ownership, addressing issues of overpopulation, and preventing the mistreatment of pets.

What is the Purpose of Animal Welfare and Rights?

The purpose of animal welfare and rights is to improve the treatment and quality of life for animals, recognizing that animals have intrinsic value and deserve ethical consideration. Here are some key objectives of these fields:

1. Preventing Suffering

One of the fundamental goals of animal welfare is to prevent unnecessary suffering. This involves ensuring that animals are not subjected to cruelty, abuse, or neglect. It also includes efforts to alleviate pain and distress in various settings.

2. Promoting Ethical Treatment

Animal welfare advocates for the ethical treatment of animals, whether they are farm animals, research subjects, or pets. This involves setting and enforcing standards for their care, housing, and handling.

3. Conservation and Biodiversity

Animal welfare and rights are closely linked to the conservation of wildlife and biodiversity. By protecting natural habitats and preventing the exploitation of endangered species, we aim to preserve the planet’s biological diversity.

4. Ethical Research

In scientific research, the welfare of animals used as subjects is a significant concern. The purpose is to ensure that research is conducted in a way that minimizes harm and respects the rights of the animals involved.

5. Promoting Responsible Ownership

For companion animals, promoting responsible ownership is a key objective. This includes advocating for spaying and neutering to reduce overpopulation, as well as educating pet owners on proper care and ethical treatment.

Where Can I Study Animal Welfare in South Africa?

If you’re interested in studying animal welfare in South Africa, you have several options. South Africa offers a variety of academic programs and institutions that focus on animal welfare and related fields. Here are some recommendations:

1. University of Pretoria

The University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Veterinary Science offers undergraduate and postgraduate programs related to animal welfare, animal behavior, and veterinary science. These programs provide a comprehensive education on the subject and are highly regarded in the field.

2. University of KwaZulu-Natal

The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Life Sciences offers courses and research opportunities in animal behavior, conservation, and ecology. This institution is known for its strong focus on wildlife and biodiversity.

3. University of Stellenbosch

The University of Stellenbosch’s Faculty of AgriSciences offers programs in animal science and animal health. These programs cover aspects of animal welfare, particularly in the context of livestock and agriculture.

4. SPCA and Animal Welfare Organizations

Several animal welfare organizations and the South African SPCA offer courses and training in animal welfare and related subjects. These programs are often designed for individuals interested in working directly with animals or in animal advocacy.

5. Online Courses and Certification

In addition to traditional university programs, you can also find online courses and certification programs that cover animal welfare topics. These can be a convenient option for those looking to gain knowledge in this field while working or studying from home.

In conclusion, animal behavior and welfare are crucial fields that contribute to the well-being of animals, both in captivity and in the wild. The study of these disciplines helps us better understand the needs and rights of animals, promoting ethical treatment and conservation efforts. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in animal welfare in South Africa, there are various educational opportunities available to help you achieve your goals and make a positive impact on the lives of animals.

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