Behavior Specialist (Full-Time)

The Behavior Specialist assists in fulfilling the mission and vision of Animal Friends by overseeing the behavioral wellbeing of resident animals which typically consists of cats, dogs, and rabbits. The Behavior Specialist works closely with a team of fellow specialists to include our the Canine Behavior Specialist, Enrichment Specialist and the  Feline Behavior Specialist in the identification of needs in our shelter animals and recommends appropriate responses such as behavior modification plans, training, enrichment, special handling needs, housing needs, etc.  Additionally, the Behavior Specialist will act as the primary staff member overseeing the Rabbit Program at Animal Friends.  As a key member of the Life Saving Operations team, the Behavior Specialist works collaboratively with Animal Friends staff and volunteers to ensure consistent positive reinforcement / reward-based training and behavior modification. The Behavior Specialist will aide in suppling competent and appropriate intervention in behavioral issues for all resident animals, on-site and in foster. Because of the nature of the organization and the position, the Behavior Specialist must be willing to work with all residents regardless of age, breed, size, and temperament, safely and competently. 

This position requires: expert knowledge in behavior and cognition and applied behavior and training, flexibility, high energy, and strong public relations skills augmented by a compassionate spirit and the ability to build consensus.  As with every position within Animal Friends, the Behavior Specialist is expected to be a positive ambassador for the organization, abide by and promote its mission, policies, and vision.

Essential Functions


Rabbit Program 

  • Oversees the Rabbit Handling Program
  • Develops curriculum and/or makes revisions for rabbit handling classes, manuals, and training videos
  • Works closely with the Rabbit Volunteers to ensure a solid relationship, by listening, collaborating, and responding to feedback
  • Conducts minimally one staff run Bun Run weekly, utilizing the opportunity to not only allow for rabbit socialization and behavior modifications, but also staff involvement and education 
  • Interacts with all new rabbit residents within 48-hours of admission, documenting initial observations and/or concerns
  • Attends Bun Runs regularly 
  • Creates, conducts, and oversees an objective rabbit behavior evaluation to be completed with each resident rabbit

Resident Training and Behavior Modification

  • Identifies resident animals with behavioral challenges, documents observations and concerns in a timely manner 
  • Creates and implements appropriate training and/or behavior modification plans once behavioral issues have been identified, with the guidance and cooperation of the Dog Behavior Specialist and Cat Behavior Specialist
  • Engages with resident animals with high level behavior needs/behavior modification plans daily
  • Ensures all implemented training and behavior modification plans are being worked competently and consistent by staff and volunteers
  • Performs regular checks/assessments on high needs residents 
  • Documents all interactions with resident animals
  • Oversees volunteer support of training and behavior modification soliciting feedback on progress on a regular basis
  • Answers questions/provides education regarding behavior plans to staff, volunteers, and adopters
  • Identifies and reports safety concerns to the Director of Behavior and Placement
  • Reports progress on all animals on training/modification plans to the Director of Behavior and Placement weekly, recommends changes to behavior plans as needed 
  • Provides support to foster parents for residents in foster homes in need of behavioral assistance 
  • Recommends classes, trainings, and other programming for progression of the department and organization 
  • Provides feedback to the Admissions Department on current animal inventory and implications to potential admissions

Support to the Behavior Department 

  • Aide in conducting behavior evaluations for resident cats and dogs per the requests of the Dog Behavior Specialist and/or the Cat Behavior Specialist 
  • Aide in conducting shelter dog playgroup sessions per the request and guidance of the Dog Behavior Specialist

Education and Leadership

  • Responds to the inquiries to the Behavior Department from the public including providing behavioral advice/support, or referring as necessary. Provides timely responses to phone call and email inquiries 
  • Works closely with the Behavior Care Techs, providing them with regular training and hands-on education opportunities in regards to handling and behavior modification. 
  • Assists in the adoption process with residents who have special behavioral needs by meeting with potential adopters and by providing education and resources to Adoption Counselors, as well as providing behavioral support post-adoption
  • Recruits and trains volunteers to support department activities (training, administrative, etc.). Leverage volunteer talent by engaging their assistance within the department, thereby helping us to further our mission and vision and to achieve the organization’s expectation of 100% integration of volunteers into our programs
  • Creates and maintains a climate in which volunteers are engaged and motivated to be an essential part of the organization through personal example of the desired standards of conduct and work performance. Fosters an environment of cooperation and teamwork
  • Must be willing to take part in continuing education opportunities throughout the year and present the Director of Behavior and Placement with innovative ideas, techniques, etc. within one week of the course/conference 


  • Represents the Behavior Department at Flow Meetings
  • Responds to Behavior Help Line inquiries
  • Maintains a clean and organized equipment storage area, ensuring that all tools, information, and equipment are accessible to other staff and Volunteer Behavior Teams
  • Be fully aware of surroundings when handling animals, especially in public areas. Some animals can be reactive to people and/or other animals, and interactions with members of the public should be limited or restricted as directed. Additionally, information about animals that have been confiscated through Animal Friends’ Human Investigations program must not be shared
  • Attends bi-weekly Behavior Team meetings as well as bi-weekly Touch Base meetings with the Director of Behavior and Placement. 
  • Performs other duties as assigned 

  • Bachelor’s Degree preferred
  • Must have a background/history in animal behavior; training certification preferred.
  • Must have a strong commitment to only evidence-based, positive reinforcement training methods
  • Must be 18yrs of age or older
  • Must possess a minimum of two to four years prior work experience in animal care and welfare; previous work in a shelter environment preferred
  •  Must possess excellent communication (written and verbal) skills, leadership skills, interpersonal skills, organizational ability and time management skills
  • Computer proficiency required; experience with Shelter Luv  shelter database software helpful.
  • This position requires a high degree of problem-solving skills, customer service skills, flexibility, and conflict resolution skills.
  • Must have the ability to exercise good judgment and make independent decisions with limited supervision 
  • Must have the ability to cope with physically and emotionally demanding work
  • Must be comfortable handling dogs, cats, and rabbits of varying breed, size, age, condition and temperament
  • Must have access to dependable transportation, and openness to local travel. Valid PA driver’s license preferred
  • Must be able to work flexible hours, including weekends, evenings, early mornings and some holidays. Must be willing to be contacted during “off” hours in the event of an animal emergency.
  • Must have a sincere interest in the work, programs and mission of Animal Friends, Inc.
  • Flexible work availability preferred; organization is a 24hr operation, which may require individuals to work evenings, weekends, holidays and/or special events at times, including Black Tie & Tails
  • The physical demands for this job are as follows: Medium Work – Medium work is defined as lifting 50lbs maximum with frequent lifting and/or carrying of objects weighing up to 35lbs
  • Must have a sincere interest in the vision, mission, and culture of Animal Friends
  • Must meet essential functions within 60 days of hire

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities:

  • Communication Proficiency – Ability to orally express information and ideas to others when speaking
  • Customer / Client Focus- Actively seeks out ways to aide Animal Friends guests and/or volunteers to ensure the best possible customer service is provided
  • Diversity and Inclusion – Ability to welcome, support and value individuals with similarities and differences that may vary from your own
  • Stress Management - Ability to maintain baseline behavior / composure during stressful situations
  • Teamwork Orientation – Ability to work with others to accomplish likeminded goals and tasks for the organization