Speaking with Nature
With continued AC education, the natural AC ability would be polished to reach a deeper level of communication. See this video to see one such example with an advanced communicator. Click on the picture.
The Animal Communicator never lacks from connections to animals, usually in the form of animal companions. If they cannot actually live with animals, there will be a distinct understanding of the animal mind, and the animal will actually "speak" to the animal communicator.
The beginning stages of AC may simply be understanding what an animal wants with a simple look. Shared empathy would make it difficult for a AC to visit a zoo or circus, but may allow them to work in one as they would see to the animal's welfare.