Best Practices in Animal Keeping

Hosted by ZooTampa
Tampa, FL
February 29 - March 5, 2020

Best Practices 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-affiliated 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, think critically, evaluate problems and propose solutions, and to communicate effectively with other members of their organization.

Course Objectives

After completing this course participants will be better able to: 

  • Work with a team of colleagues to formulate solutions to collection problems presented during class, using their own experience and expertise in combination with the skills they obtain through the curriculum presented
  • Apply the husbandry skills they learn at their own institution
  • Utilize scientific and critical thinking skills in solving problems that arise within their institution’s collection
  • Develop stronger communication and team-building skills to use both within their institution and when communicating with the public
  • Develop an appreciation for the research and record-keeping skills necessary in today’s animal care departments
  • Assess issues related to conservation and the animal welfare/animal rights discussion as they relate to themselves and to their institution
  • Understand the roles and missions of AZA, and how they can strengthen and complement each other towards making our industry as effective as possible
  • Collaborate more effectively with zoo and aquarium colleagues and departments, both at their own institution and beyond
  • Network with other animal care professionals and build relationships for future collaboration and information sharing
  • Obtain references and resources on topics relevant to them and their profession


Jacque Blessington, Lakeside Nature Center
Kenton Kerns, Assistant Curator, Smithsonian National Zoological Park 
Dr. Chris Hanley, Chief Veterinarian - Saint Louis Zoo
Larry Killmar, PhD, VP Animals, Science, & Conservation - Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo
Dawn Neptune, Behavioral Programs Manager - Utah's Hogle Zoo 

Is This Course Right for You?

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, but volunteers and private animal trainers are welcome to attend. 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 to for consideration.

Course Schedule  

First Day
 - Student registration
 - Opening reception

- Class meets all day

Last Day
- Class meets
- Closing reception

Attendance for course participants is required for the duration of the course until the evening of the last day. As a result, individuals generally depart the following day. 

Course Travel & Tuition

Travel & Accommodations 

Tampa International Airport (TPA) is the closest airport. Course participants will stay at a designated hotel downtown and are transported to ZooTampa for class each day.

Breakfast will be provided at the hotel each day. 

General Hotel Pricing*:
$79+ Standard King
$89+ King Suite
$99+ Two Queen Suite

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

Tuition & Expenses* 

The AZA registration fee below covers tuition and lunches for each day of the course. Other expenses include hotel, travel, and other meals. Registration prices are subject to change. 

Scholarship funding for courses is available through a competitive process. AZA scholarship applications are due by mid-July and are awarded by early September. 

Early Bird Rates:
$900 for AZA Individual Members
$1000 for Non-members
Registration deadline: 12 weeks prior to course start date

Regular Rates:
$1000 for AZA Individual Members
$1100 for Non-members
Final registration deadline: 4 weeks prior to course start date

Accepted forms of payment for registration are by: credit card, check or purchase order. 

*Prices are subject to change 

For information regarding our code of conduct, registration, and refund policies, please visit our Professional Development Course Policies page.

Questions? For additional details please contact the AZA Professional Development Department.

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