Few people receive phone calls about drunken hyenas or poisoned gorillas at their jobs, unless they work for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Animal Poison Control Center.
Samantha Wright is a veterinary assistant for ASPCA’s 24-hour poison control hotline. She fields incoming calls from pet owners across the United States and other countries whose animals ingested potentially harmful substances.
“You don’t feel like you are stuck in a rut because every day is different,” she said. “You will come to work every day excited to learn and help people and animals. You are going to learn something new every day.”
She follows up with owners and veterinarians to see how a case turns out or to see if they have any further questions. She also follows up on cases dealing with unknown toxicities to gain a better understanding of how to treat animals in the future.
“I really enjoy the reward aspect of my job,” she said. “The pet owners are really grateful.”
Wright, a University of Illinois graduate, said she still refers weekly to her notes from courses in the Department of Animal Sciences.
“In the companion animal classes, you learn about animals’ anatomy and physiology in addition to behavior,” she said. “This class helps with everything that I do on a daily basis.”
Fortunately, the ASPCA funds continuing education for their employees. Wright is currently taking Spanish classes in order to communicate with her Hispanic clients. In the future, she hopes to earn a Master’s degree in toxicology in order to write protocols for different substances such as candle wax.