Best Practices in Animal Keeping

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AAK Otter

This one's a keeper!

Next offered:
April 26-May 1, 2014 at Toledo Zoo in Toledo, OH

Please note, payment is now due at the time of registration. Please do not submit a registration form without payment, as it will not be processed.

To pay by check or purchase order:
Download the BPAK COURSE REGISTRATION FORM and return by mail with check or purchase order

To pay by credit card:
You can now register and pay online with a credit card! Just log in to our new website. Non-members can log in too after creating an account. After logging in, choose "Upcoming Events" from the menu on the left. Next, click on the title of the event for which you would like to register. Finally, choose "Event Registration" from the options at the top and complete the registration process. When registering online, there is no need to submit the registration form.

Early bird registration deadline: 12 weeks prior to course start date
Final Registration deadline: 4 weeks prior to course start date

Course Description

Best Practices in Animal Keeping (formerly Advances in Animal Keeping) covers the essentials of animal keeping across all taxa.  The course focuses on the very highest standards in animal husbandry, in combination with problem solving, team building and interpersonal skills.  You will engage with professional colleagues and apply what you learn back at your home institution.  The goal of this course is to motivate and retain animal care professionals within our industry and to elevate the standards of animal care in AZA zoos and aquariums.

In-class discussion, exchange of ideas with animal care colleagues, small group activities, and question-and-answer sessions all enable students to analyze trends, to think critically, to evaluate problems and propose solutions, and to communicate effectively with other members of their organization.  

Tuition & Expenses

Early Bird Rates:
$850 for AZA Individual Members
$950 for Non-members

Regular Rates:
$950 for AZA Individual Members
$1,050 for Non-members

Early bird registration deadline: 12 weeks prior to course start date
Final Registration deadline: 4 weeks prior to course start date

The AZA registration fee above covers only tuition for the course. Other expenses include hotel, travel, and meals.

Scholarship funding is available through a competitive process.

Target Audience

This course is targeted toward currently employed animal care professionals. Curricula will be challenging for individuals new to the field of zoo keeping and is designed for those who have zoo/aquarium animal care experience.


None.  Priority will be given to AZA members.  International applicants and those not affiliated with an AZA accredited institution will be considered on a case-by-case basis;  please submit a letter describing your intended benefit from taking this course.

Course Registration

Checks sent for course payment will be cashed immediately upon receipt as per standard business practices.  Cashing your check does not indicate that you have been accepted into a course. You will receive an acceptance email or waitlist email once acceptance decisions are made.

Travel & Accommodations

Toledo Express Airport (TOL) is the closest airport, but can be more expensive.  Detroit Metro Airport (DTW) is an economical alternative, about an hour drive from Toledo.

Course participants stay at the Country Inn & Suites in Maumee, Ohio and are transported to the Toledo Zoo in vans for class each day.

Please wait until you are admitted into the course before making your reservations.  You will reserve an email containing detailed information regarding your accommodations and transportation once you are admitted. 

Course Topics & Instructors

Animal Husbandry
• Animal Behavior (training, enrichment, observational skills)
• Horticulture
• Handling & Restraint
• Regulations
• Reproduction, Pest Control
• Animal Shipments
• Water Quality
• Nutrition
• Geriatric Care
• Veterinary Overview

• Practical Exhibit Design
• Safety
• Crisis Management
• Nutrition
• Research Skills

• Team-building
• Conflict resolution
• Training
• Talking with management
• Working with volunteers
• Talking to the media
• The keeper’s role in education

Jacque Blessington,  Zookeeper - Kansas City Zoo
Dr. Robert Davis, President & CEO  - Zoological Society of Milwaukee
Dr. Chris Hanley, Chief Veterinarian - Toledo Zoo
Shane Good, Curator - Akron Zoo
Larry Killmar, PhD, Vice President Animals, Science, and Conservation - Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo
Beth Posta, Curator of Behavioral Husbandry & Research - Toledo Zoo

Course Schedule


For additional details please contact the AZA Professional Development Department or call (301) 562-0777 ext 251.