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Kicked, Bitten, and Scratched: Life and Lessons at the World's Premier School for Exotic Animal Trainers

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  518 ratings  ·  69 reviews
An invitation into the magical, grueling, and virtually unknown world of exotic animal training

Behind the imposing gate of the Exotic Animal Training Program at California's Moorpark College lies a kingdom full of small mysteries, deep passions, and a camel that shoots hoops. Each year a select group of students descends on this teaching zoo to learn an improbable talent
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 1st 2006 by Viking Adult (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

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Amy Sutherland tackles an interested subject in this book and succeeds in describing "life" with believable detail but falls somewhat short of the promised "lessons." She refrains from passing judgement of any kind, or really even exploring the issues, of a fairly controversial subject. I would have appreciated some discussion of the ethics of keeping zoo animals as student projects or even some sort of summary of the "lessons" applicable to life in general. Sutherland barely brushes the surface ...more
I was drawn to this book by the Op-Ed that Sutherland wrote promoting it when it came out. The piece, titled What Shamu Taught Me About My Marriage, was about applying animal training techniques to humans, specifically her husband.

In the first 100 pages that I was able to read before I completely lost interest, there was very little discussion of animal behavior. The book details life at the Exotic Animal Training and Management program at Moorpark Community College, but never gets close to any
Pretty tasty mind candy, especially for me since I consider a fish tank the ideal pet. It seemed like a very good perspective on those, to me, odd folk who are willing to put up with a great deal of crap (in every sense of that word) to be around animals.

The title sums up things pretty nicely. This is NOT a book about animal training, it is a book about the people (and animals) involved in the two-year EATM program at Moorpark college.

I am kinda sensitive to overly dramatic prose, and at times S
Lauren Paprocki
I read the book Kicked, Bitten, and Scratched: Life and Lessons at the World's Premier School for Exotic Animal Trainers by Amy Sutherland. In this novel it describes every aspect of life working at the famous Moorpark Teaching Zoo. In every chapter the book touches on different areas at the zoo and tells numerous memories and stories that different students their have come across. I give this book a 5 star rating because of my passion for animals and how it hides no secrets in sharing hot ruthl ...more
I can see the point of the people here who have complained that the book lacked focus. Sutherland was faced with a rather difficult situation: She wanted to talk about a place, and to chronicle the inhabitants of that place, both animal and human (or animals, both human and non-, if you prefer). However, there were two many of both ilks to follow in any comprehensible way. So instead she chose the non-traditional route of profiling the place rather than the people. This did mean that characters ...more
Dec 19, 2007 Mollie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: animal lovers
A NYT article about how learning about animal behavior was better than marriage counseling prompted journalist Amy Sutherland to write a whole book about it. A self described animal lover, she spends a year at the exotic animal training college, Moorpark, in CA, following a year of students through the main travails and trials of the year. It is definitely a very interesting book, and you learn all sorts of factoids about animals and get a glimpse into the world of animal training--which one rar ...more
Aug 15, 2008 Elise rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people obsessed with animals
This book was neither fish nor fowl. The location was very interesting and the stories were crazy and unbelievable. But the decision to follow dozens of students, teachers, and animals made it hard to get connected. I had a lot of trouble remembering who was who, despite the descriptions of "shoulder-length chestnut hair" or "big brown eyes" or whatever. And I still don't know what the hell a cavy is.

I think a strong-handed editor could have helped. Or really, a total reorganization of how the b
Caelyn Leigh
Absolutely loved this look into the EATM program. I want to attend so badly now. This book really got me motivated. Highly recommend for anyone who wants to go into the exotic animal training and management field like I do
Of course this was a book in my mom's library that I read while I was taking care of her exotic animal farm while she was out of town. I'd never heard of this school before my mom told me about this book. Really fascinating. Unlike my mom, I am not at all interested in attending such a school (--my grandma's words: "You couldn't *pay* me to go to such a school."), but I enjoyed reading about it. It was probably more interesting to me because my mom is such an animal person than it would have bee ...more
Helen Dunn
This is my favorite type of nonfiction - getting a good look inside the inner workings of a tiny subculture - in this case, a college program for animal trainers at a California teaching zoo. Unfortunately, I didn't like this particular book very much.

The primary characters (human and animal) all kind of blurred together and it felt like little more than a blow by blow account of daily chores. When dramatic things happen during the course of the school year, it was hard to care because I had no
This was a fabulous book a very different from the usual books on animals that I find myself reading. A great look at the ups and downs of students going through the two year program there. This is not an explanation at how perfect a job with animals is, but a realistic look at the profession, from the low salaries and job shortages to the PETA controversy and the evolution of animal training. A great book for anyone looking to get into the animal field and have yet to be bitten. Because whether ...more

This book was an interesting look at the Moorpark College's animal training program. It follows the students through their joys and failures during the rigorous program. The book was especially interesting to me because of my profession. Working with animals can be one of the toughest yet rewarding fields to be involved in and this book illustrated that well. The writing did get sloppy at time and sometimes the writer used so many names you forgot what animal or person they were referring to. A
For an animal lover, this was a great read! It was really fascinating to learn the ins and outs of training and caring for exotic animals. It's truly quite amazing the things they can do with all sorts of animals that you'd never think could be trained. Not only is it about animals, it's about the students and their experience at this rare zoo school. Did you know that about 95% of movie animal trainers, dog trainers, and other exotic animal trainers have gone to this school? If you've ever wond ...more
A journalist's account of students' first year in the exotic animal training program at Moorpark College in CA. A well done book, it certainly convinced me I should have no regrets in having not tried for this program. It was a great read, but I was disappointed to see how little really happens in the program (though the somewhat sketchy origins, so common in the exotic animal field, are quite interesting). I recommend this to anyone considering an exotic animal career, it totally nails both the ...more
a dollar store find

I picked this book up because when I was a kid working with animals would have been a dream job of mine.

In 'Kicked Bitten and Scratched' journalist Amy Sutherland chronicles the year she spent with students at the grueling exotic animal training program at Moorpark College in CA.

If you are looking for a 'how-to' you won't find it here, but I wasn't expecting it to be one. This is more about the lives of the trainers than the animals. I found it an interesting and entertaining
First of all, this book had so many spelling errors 1/2 way through to the end of the adventure that it took away from the reading experience totally. When little errors like missing the 't' in 'student' show up, I get a bit cranky.
Additional spaces with words also bothered me.
The adventure itself was interesting, but I found that for the last 4 chapters of the book that I didn't CARE anymore as to what happened to the students. Poor writing or too long of a book??? Not sure, but I kept going ti
I really, really enjoyed this book. Books about the day to day lives of people with weird jobs fascinate me, as does training large and dangerous animals. However, this book is also an example of what happens when publishers cut corners on editing. While the overall story was well done, there were acronyms used randomly with no explanation, names used confusingly, and a few other touches that probably would have been easily remedied by a good editor.

But despite that, I would still highly recomme
I read this book because of Amy Sutherland's piece in the New York Times about using animal training techniques on her husband ( If you want more like that, don't read this book. If, however, you would like a close-up of the EATM animal training school, a no-romance look at animal training and the hazards (physical, emotional, psychological), this is the book for you. Sutherland give a frank look into what must surely be one of the most stressful educati ...more
Mary Christine Delea
Well-written and engaging, this book focuses on one year at a school for those who wish to work with animals. The students from this year are a diverse group, which makes the account even more enjoyable, and the reader gets a good sense of each student. The animals, of course, are just as important and just as diverse, and although they are "used" to humans, they are still wild animals. This is a great book for anyone interested in animals and anyone curious about the people who choose to work w ...more
This was a very enjoyable read - a year in the life of a (the) school for animal trainers, and the students, faculty, and critters that make it up. It read more like a novel than most non-fiction texts.

Of course, with such a large cast, I found myself getting confused ... hmmmm ... "Legend", what breed was he? (She?) Or was it a nickname for one of the teachers? The author did often intersperse a description with the name - too often for some readers, but not quite enough for me!
Sutherland follows one class all the way through their first year at the school. At times it seemed a bit scattered, as she kept tabs on so many different people, plus the animals that all had names and personalities.

Interesting. Gave me some food for thought.Sometimes books like this make me wish I could try it out for myself; this one, not so much. I enjoy having a dog, who probably should be officially trained at some point, but that's about enough for me.
While the subject matter is really interesting, the writing is not so much. I suppose I've been spoiled by some really well-written non-fiction, but this just fell a little flat, like a really long trip report rather than an integrated story. I guess the lesson is, just because it's not fiction, doesn't mean it doesn't need a story. I enjoyed it, but someone less interested in behaviorism, or the logistics of running a zoo, probably wouldn't.
Supremely entertaining, especially if you know anyone who has worked in the zoo industry... Well-written, moving, and educational. I did wish that she re-stated which animal was which rather than so often using just names, especially in the beginning, or that there was a cast of characters or something... and male readers might wish that she focused slightly less on peoples' outfits and builds, but overall excellent.
An absorbing account of what it takes to learn how to work with exotic animals. Not the greatest writing style, but the subject matter more than makes up for it.

Being a zookeeper was always my secret dream, but after reading this, I cannot imagine having the dedication to work so many long hours for very little (tangible) reward. It was so interesting to learn what it really takes- I will probably read this book again.
This book follows the students of a exotic animal training zoo at Moorpark college in California. What classes they must take, what animals they must train, and what tasks they need to do to pass.

I enjoy this book, I kind of which she had focused more on just a few people because sometimes you had no idea who she was taking about. But It was a fun read never the less.
Really fascinating insight into the world of animal training. Very well written. My only bone with it was the author's introduction - contrary to her own experience, you should NOT feed turtles iceberg lettuce, you should NOT release your domestic rabbit into the wild, and you should neuter your dogs. Amen. (Luckily this had nothing to do with the content of the book).
Considering I borrowed this from a friend who found it at the Dollar Store it was pretty darn good. Sutherland is a good researcher. It was an interesting topic to read about as I had never given it much thought before. (I watched Evan Almighty for the first time right after reading this and had to scan the credits to see if I recognized any of the animal trainers names (0:)
As an aspiring animal trainer this book is teaching me a lot about the craft and it true to the life of a trainer. The book gives great insight into the profession. I don't care for Ms. Sutherland's journalistic writing style. She has a lot of names that is rather hard to remember, but she makes all her characters (including the animals) come alive.
I really enjoyed this book. Most people assume that zoo keepers and animal trainers are uneducated people who scoop poop all day and this book shows differently. It describes what they go through and the dedication that these animal lovers have. It pays respect to the the long hours and low pay they deal with to do what they were called to do.
Having lived in Simi Valley and having attended Moorpark College's institute, which our stake president, who lived in our ward, ran; it was just fun because it was Moorpark College. But it was very interesting: following the students for a whole year and where some ended up and how they coped with the pressure and stress. I enjoyed reading it.
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