Best Practices in Animal Keeping

Spring 2022 

Location: TBD

Best Practices in Animal Keeping is built to deliver a dynamic set of tools for integrating best practices and modern approaches to animal keeping, specifically within the context of behavioral husbandry, across all taxa. Emphasis is placed on the application of strong critical thinking, problem solving, team-building and interpersonal skills to maximize the overall impact of these practices. The ultimate goal of this course is to empower animal care professionals to be advocates for the animals in their care through knowledge of best practices, and to provide effective approaches for elevating the standards of animal care and welfare in the larger zoo & aquarium community. 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. After completing this course, students can apply the combination of their own expertise, with the skills explored through the curriculum, to further the work of their institution’s mission and vision.

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
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, will include 2 late evening sessions (end times are typically 7-8 PM)

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. Participants will be working on a team projects throughout the week, outside of classroom time.  Participants are encouraged to meet during free time such as lunches and evenings. 

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*:
$129+ Standard King
$129+ 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. 

Staff at AZA Accredited / Certified Institutions*
Early Bird Rate:
 Deadline December 16th, 2019
$900 with Individual AZA Membership 
$1100 without Qualifying Individual Membership

Regular Rate: Deadline February 1st, 2020
$1100 with Individual AZA Membership 
$1300 without Qualifying Individual Membership

Individual Membership must be Professional Affiliate or Professional Fellow to qualify. 

Individuals Not Employed at an AZA-accredited or Certified Insitution*
Early Bird Rate:
 12 weeks prior to course start date
$1100 with Professional Associate Membership

Regular Rate: Deadline February 1st, 2020
$1300 with Professional Associate Membership

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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