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.

About the programme

Start here for a fulfilling career working with animals.

This programme will give you an entry-level animal care qualification. It will also give you a taste of the wider range of animal-related qualifications available and allow you to get a feel for tertiary study before attempting a higher-level qualification.

It’s also a great first step if you want to enter an animal-related profession such as SPCA work, pet shop work or kennel and cattery animal care.

There are three different focus areas to choose from – we will the offer Companion Animal focus in 2023. We hope to offer Rural and Equine strands from 2024.

In the Companion Animal focus, you'll learn about the health, welfare, husbandry, anatomy, physiology, and low-stress handling techniques for animals such as cats, dogs, rabbits and birds.

Once you’ve completed the first course, you’ll need to organise access to animal-related facilities such as boarding kennels or catteries so you can do your 40-hour work placement.

You may also need to attend some in-person sessions during this programme (the venues for these are yet to be confirmed).

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.

*This programme is subject to final NZQA approval and will run subject to minimum numbers. 


In 2023, our whānau will be getting bigger as all Polytechnics across New Zealand come together under one organisation – Te Pūkenga. Because of this transition, this programme is in the final stages of review and is currently listed by NZQA. 

It may mean that some of the below courses change slightly and we'll update this information as soon as we can. 

Companion Animal Focus Area



Companion Animal Professionalism And Infection Control


Companion Animal Anatomy And Physiology


Introduction To Companion Animal Husbandry And Behaviour


Companion Animal Practicum 1


Companion Animal Health And Hygiene


Companion Animal Clinical Assistance


Companion Animal Preparation For Practice


Companion Animal Practicum 2



Studying in 2023 

We're a leader in the provision of online animal health 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). 

However, in 2023 you may need to attend some in-person sessions. The venues for these are yet to be confirmed. Contact for more information. 

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

When you successfully finish this programme, you could study our one-year New Zealand Certificate in Animal Healthcare Assisting (Level 4)* or the two-year New Zealand Diploma in Veterinary Nursing* or New Zealand Diploma in Rural Animal Veterinary Technology* to widen your career opportunities.

*These programmes are subject to final NZQA approval and will run subject to minimum numbers.


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.