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New Zealand Certificate in Animal Care (Companion Animals)

New Zealand Certificate in Animal Care (Companion Animals)

Level 3

Harness your love for animals and join the rewarding animal care industry with UCOL’s New Zealand Certificate in Animal Care (Companion Animals) Level 3.

A photograph of veterinary nursing students work with a dog at our Palmerston North campus
Quick info

Level: 3

Locations: UCOL Manawatū in Palmerston North, UCOL Wairarapa in Masterton

Duration: 20 weeks full-time
(See Course Hours & Duration for details)

Palmerston North
25 Jul 2022 - 09 Dec 2022

25 Jul 2022 - 09 Dec 2022

Domestic Fees: *
$3673.39Scholarship info

International Fees:*

Additional Fees
Compulsory course costs may apply.

* Fees are indicative only, and are inclusive of the student services levy and GST (goods and services tax). The fee shown is for one year of study.

Gain the skills, knowledge and experience you need to maintain the welfare of companion animals such as cats, dogs, companion birds and rabbits. 

This programme will provide you with the qualification needed to comply with all regulatory requirements and relevant industry codes of practice for animal care, respond to normal and abnormal health and behaviour in animals and assist with the day to day care of animals.

This programme uses blended delivery – combining in person, online, and in-work learning.

COVID-19 Vaccination Mandate

The New Zealand Government COVID-19 Mandate Order requires the following workers to be vaccinated: 

  • health and disability sector workers
  • prison staff
  • border and MIQ workers.

As well as that, private companies and organisations have the right to require staff to be vaccinated.

Therefore, to go on placement or an internship that is a part of your programme, you must meet COVID-19 vaccination requirements. You can see more information on UCOL's Covid-19 page and on the Unite Against Covid-19 website.

 Course Hours & Duration

This programme runs for 20 weeks, including 2 holiday weeks.

Per week, your learning will include approximately:

Class Time
20 hrs

Lectures,tutorials and/or online recordings.
Industry Experience
2 hrs

Workplacement in an animal related facility. You should complete at least 40 hours in total as part of this programme. 
Study Time
20 hrs

Study in your own time.

 Career & Study Outcomes

  • Pet stores
  • Animal rescue centres
  • Pet groomers
  • Boarding and training facilities
  • General pet owners
  • Animal recreation businesses
  • Or staircase to further study

To find out more about possible job prospects and salaries, see Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Occupation Outlook for Veterinarians and Veterinary Nurses

 Course Information

Note: As a subsidiary of Te Pūkenga - New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology,11 UCOL is committed to providing the best learning outcome for you. As part of this, all programmes are currently being reviewed to make them portable, consistent, and closely aligned with the needs of the industry. When published, this course information is correct, but the courses offered may change over time.

This programme is taught in a blended learning format. You will be in class one full day and one half-day each week. In addition, there will be lecturer-supported online tasks and learning activities to make a full-time study load. These online tasks can be done at home, or at UCOL using UCOL computers.

This programme consist of 70 Credits including 27 NCEA credits. The courses includes:

Animal Care Fundamentals (15 Credits)
Learn introductory concepts of health, safety, hygiene, professional behaviour, companion animal characteristics, ethics, welfare, and behaviour before commencing experiential learning in animal-related facilities. The learning outcomes are:

  • Describe and demonstrate introductory health, safety, and hygiene procedures and concepts for the animal care industry.
  • Describe and demonstrate appropriate professional behaviour, personal effectiveness, and cultural awareness in the animal care industry.
  • Identify typical physical and behavioural characteristics of a range of companion animal species and breeds.
  • Describe introductory standards of ethics, welfare, and behaviour when working with animals in a professional capacity.

Anatomy and Physiology (10 Credits)
The course aims to introduce and expand foundation knowledge of companion animal anatomy, cells, body tissues and systems. The learning outcomes are:

  • Describe skeletal anatomy, muscles, tendons, and integument of a companion animal.
  • Describe the features of senses in an animal and how they contribute to the safety and wellbeing of selected animals.
  • Describe monogastric digestion in an animal.
  • Identify and describe the main building blocks, body systems, body fluid transport systems required to maintain homeostasis in an animal.

Animal Care Facilities (15 Credits)
The course aims to introduce regulatory requirements relevant to the animal care sector, including codes of practice, admission to and discharge from animal facilities, and regulations covering behaviour, handling and restraint, basic training, and transportation. The learning outcomes are::

  • Identify the main requirements of legislation relevant to animal facilities
  • Identify the main features and functions of a range of animal care facilities
  • Explain, procedures to identify, admit and discharge an animal and keep accurate records in an animal facility
  • Describe and apply the Animal Welfare Act, including its codes to evaluate animal welfare in a range of situations
  • Describe and apply appropriate handling, restraint, transportation and training techniques for various situations to minimise the stress of animals.

Animal Husbandry and Health (30 Credits)
The course aims to enable learners to undertake day to day care of companion animals according to support optimal health and welfare and respond appropriately to normal and abnormal health and behaviour. The learning outcomes are:

  • Describe the natural habitat and behaviour of a range of companion animals and how this informs optimal housing, husbandry and handling.
  • Describe ideal companion animal husbandry (care, nutrition, housing, grooming, and enrichment) to support optimal health and welfare.
  • Describe basic reproduction, parturition and care of neonates in dogs, cats, rabbits and companion birds.
  • Explain signs of health, ill-health (including common infectious diseases) and wellbeing in companion animals.
  • Recognise and explain how to assess an animal and give basic first aid advice for common emergency situations.
  • Provide day-to-day feeding, husbandry, handling and routine health procedures to maintain the welfare of animals at the animal facility

 Industry Connections

Animal Care Establishments and the Veterinary Nursing Educational Standards Committee (VNESC).

 Learning Facilities

Animal handling lab

 Domestic Entry Requirements

NCEA Level 1


Equivalent academic achievement


On a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the Executive Dean

All applicants are required to:

  • Declare any previous criminal convictions prior to admission being confirmed. Convictions of any offence may not necessarily exclude applicants from enrolment; the decision is at the discretion of the Academic Leader; and
  • Authorise UCOL to obtain a background check from the New Zealand Police Licensing and Vetting Agency; and
  • Complete a health declaration form including tetanus status.

English language proficiency
If English is not your first language, you must also demonstrate English language skills equivalent to an IELTS overall band score (academic) of 5 with no band score less than 5 (or equivalent including TOEFL). IELTS scores used must be taken from a single IELTS Test Report Form (i.e. combining scores from more than one test is not permissible). UCOL is a TOEFL testing centre.


For more information about NCEA Credits see UCOL's NCEA explained page.

 International Entry Requirements

In addition to the Domestic Entry Requirements, the following applies to international student applicants.

English language proficiency
International student applicants whose first language is not English must have an IELTS Academic score of 5 with no band score lower than 5 (or equivalent including TOEFL). IELTS scores used must be taken from a single IELTS Test Report Form (i.e. combining scores from more than one test is not permissible). UCOL is a TOEFL testing centre.

Under 20 years of age
In addition to this, international applicants under 20 years of age must have NCEA equivalency.

 Advice & Guidance

As UCOL becomes Te Pūkenga on 1 January 2023, learners enrolling in a programme that is likely to continue into semester 1 2023 or starting in semester 1 2023 will become Te Pūkenga learners. They will receive their qualification from Te Pūkenga on completion.

To optimise chances of student success, 100% attendance is strongly recommended. 

All students must be physically able to handle cats, dogs, rabbits and companion birds.

This programme is taught in a blended learning format. You will be onsite in class two full days and a virtual class an additional day each week. In addition, there will be lecturer-supported online tasks, learning activities and real time online tutorials to make a full-time study load. These online tasks can be done at home, or at UCOL using UCOL computers.

Recognition of prior learning
Applications for Recognition of Prior Learning, including Cross Credit, Credit Transfer and Assessment of Prior Learning may be made on the Recognition of Prior Learning Form where a student believes all learning outcomes for a course have already been met. Applications will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the UCOL Academic Statute and other relavant policies and procedures.

Application checklist
It will make the process easier if you prepare the following before you apply:

  • National Student Number (NSN) (If you don't have a NSN, you may request one from NZQA, or you can supply a verified copy of your birth certificate, passport or Whakapapa statement.)
  • Evidence of your highest level of academic achievement (and evidence of prior learning, if applicable)
  • Evidence that you meet the entry requirements of the programme
  • Check if you're eligible for additional support or a scholarship. If you're 19 years or younger, you may be eligible to enrol in one of our free Youth Transition programmes.

Note that you will need to provide any verified documents in person, via post or email (not via the online application form).

 Additional Costs

Please note that there are additional costs associated with the New Zealand Certificate in Animal Care (Companion Animals) of approximately $85.00:


  • Navy or black dress trousers (not jeans) $40
  • Covered shoes (eg sneakers) $15


  • Calculator $10
  • Stationery (pens, pencils, ruler, notebook, paper etc) $30


The programme is approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority under the provisions of the Education Act 1989, and Universal College of Learning (UCOL) is accredited to teach it.