New Zealand Certificate in Animal Care (Level 3) (Companion Animals)

This programme is your first step towards an animal-related profession such as kennel and cattery management, pet grooming, wildlife management or education. Learn about companion animals (cats, dogs, rabbits and birds), their health, welfare and husbandry, anatomy, physiology, and low stress handling techniques.


There are some exciting changes coming to our Animal Healthcare and Veterinary Nursing programmes in 2023. Updated programme information will be added as soon as possible. To chat about the best options for you or for further information, please email 

About the programme

Start here for a fulfilling career working with animals.

This programme is your first step if you want to enter an animal-related profession such as animal control and training, kennel and cattery management, SPCA work, pet grooming, wildlife management or education. 

Veterinary and animal-related industries focus on promoting the health, husbandry and welfare of animals, and practitioners work in a variety of different places such as companion animal veterinary clinics, farms, zoos, kennels, catteries, pet-shops, SPCA/animal shelters and for regional councils. The animal health industry is vital to the success of New Zealand's economy and there is a constant demand for graduates with animal-related experience.

During this programme, you will learn about companion animals (cats, dogs, rabbits and birds), their health, welfare and husbandry (how to care for companion animals), anatomy, physiology and low stress handling techniques.

By successfully completing this programme, you'll then be able to enter our New Zealand Certificate in Animal Technology (Level 5) (Veterinary Nursing Assistant).

The online delivery will ensure that you can fit your study around other commitments and learn from a location that suits you, whilst knowing that assistance is always on hand through our extensive support systems.

Studying part-time 

We know full-time study isn't always possible. We also offer a one year part-time study option. This option only starts in February.


You'll need to complete all of these courses during this programme.

Course name Level Credits
Introduction to Animal Care 3 10
Assist in maintaining the Animal Facility 3 15
Animal Husbandry 3 15
Applied animal behaviour, husbandry, handling and welfare 3 15
Assist with the maintenance of animal health 3 15

Studying online 

We're a leader in the provision of online education. You'll learn via online facilitated teaching sessions and discussion forums, as well as having access to online course resources and activities (written, audio and video). 

Help is always on hand through our extensive support systems which include one-on-one tutor support and IT support. 

Health and Safety

You will be given full training to minimise all programme-specific risks. Examples of risks associated with this programme are lifting, animal bites and scratches, zoonotic diseases, computers, chemicals, sharp instruments, electricity, fire, and mercury thermometers. We recommend that your tetanus injection status is up-to-date to attend work-placements and handle any animals in this programme.

Further study options

This qualification leads directly into the New Zealand Certificate in Animal Technology (Level 5) (Veterinary Nursing Assistant) for those that do not have the academic entry requirements. To complete the Level 5 qualification, you will need to study a further one year full-time (on campus or via online learning) or two years part-time via online learning.

A change for 2023 enrolments

When you apply to study with Otago Polytechnic in 2023, you will be enrolled with Te Pūkenga, the new national network of vocational and applied education in Aotearoa New Zealand. You will learn in the same way, in the same place, and with the same people. The great news is that this enables us to share skills and knowledge across a network of passionate education providers, to better help you succeed. Enrolling in programmes that start in 2023, means that you will graduate with a Te Pūkenga qualification.


While every effort is made to ensure that this sheet is accurate, Otago Polytechnic reserves the right to amend, alter or withdraw any of the contained information. The fees shown in this document are indicative ONLY. Both domestic and international fees are subject to change and are dependent on the development and implementation of Government policies. Please note that additional fees may from time to time be required for external examination, NZQA fees and/or additional material fees.