• “Certification Pet Parents Can Trust”


What does it mean to be a Certified Professional Animal Care Operator (CPACO)?

Becoming a CPACO shows your clients, staff, colleagues, and community that your professional qualifications and knowledge have met the highest pet care standards established by industry experts and have been certified by an independent testing body.

Who Should Become a Certified Professional Animal Care Operator?

An Operator is responsible for the overall operation of a professional pet care business. An Operator is a pet care expert committed to animal care excellence, who provides a safe, nurturing, and educational environment for pet companions, the individuals who care for those companions, and all who visit the business. Furthermore, an Operator is an advocate for the humane treatment of all animals in the community and provides educational services on the care and safe handling of pet companions. As a member of the business community, an Operator is also responsible for promoting the business and strives to ensure employees are positive members of the community. An Operator defines and communicates the business mission and values, and is an active member of the animal care industry, investing in ongoing learning, personally, and for all staff.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible to sit for the CPACO exam, a pet care professional must meet the following requirements:

  • High school diploma or the equivalent
  • A minimum of five years/experience working in the animal care industry, with at least one year in the Operator position
  • Membership in a pet association or organization

Ongoing community service with:

  • One pet organization
  • One non-pet community organization

Body of Knowledge Represented by CPACO Credentials

The in-depth, 175-question CPACO exam, conducted at an approved testing location for a total testing time of 4 hours, covers animal care topics including health issues such as administering medications, first aid and CPR, cleaning and disinfecting, illnesses, owner directives, knowledge of parasites and zoonotic diseases, nutrition, breeds, and mental engagement tools. Additional tested health-related knowledge includes fights and bites; documentation; profile, play, behavior, and temperament; and animal management. Operations knowledge includes animal safety (e.g., handling, equipment, vaccinations, handler ratios) and facility safety (e.g., chemical usage, safety requirements); escape (e.g., prevention, owner notification, recovery); death (owner directives, vet confirmation); extreme weather and disaster preparedness. The Operator is also tested on staff management (e.g., human resources, staff training, policies and procedures, teamwork, company culture, employee satisfaction); business management (e.g., strategic planning, stewardship); financial management (e.g., systems, payroll/labor, budgeting, cost management, revenue categories, financial reports, cash flow forecasting); and customer relations and marketing. A complete outline of examination content is available in the Handbook for Candidates.

Benefits of Certification

Becoming independently certified in animal care makes you a leader in the industry.

Your certification sets you apart from the competition and signals to pet parents, staff, and potential employers that you have successfully demonstrated your comprehensive pet care knowledge and how much you care about pet safety.

You are included in the PACCC Certified Directory available to the public on the PACCC website at paccert.org/certified.

You receive a physical certificate suitable for framing and displaying at your place of business.

You can use your certification credentials (CPACO) with your name to signify your certified status.

You receive a digital badge to use with your email signature file and website.

What is the Cost of the Exam?

The cost to take the CPACO exam is $585 USD. PACCC is a not-for-profit that offers independent certification therefore payment covers the cost for the the exam to be taken in-person or virtually at a testing center that is run by a company that is separate from PACCC.

Maintaining Your Certification

CPACO certification is good for three years. To maintain certified status, a CPACO must report 30 approved Continuing Education Units (CEU). If 36 approved CEUs are not documented by the end of 3 years, retesting is required to become certified again. For information on PACCC-approved CEUs and reporting, visit paccert.org/ceu.