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Compassion fatigue and self-care

Compassion fatigue is real, and the stress of animal welfare work can negatively affect morale and job performance and ultimately lead to high staff turnover. Here you'll find resources to help you support your team and strengthen your compassion resilience.

  • Got compassion fatigue?

    Before coming to The HSUS over five years ago, I spent about 11 years working in two different shelters in Washington state, where I live. I wore about fifty different hats, managing volunteer programs, foster care, outreach and education programs, and doing just about every shelter task there is, from intakes to adoptions, and from cleaning cages to euthanasia. Being a “shelter person” wasn’t just a job for me; it was my identity. It was hard, it was often frustrating and even heartbreaking, but it was all I wanted to do.

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Most recent Tools and Resources > Compassion fatigue and self-care

  • Magazine Article

    When love isn’t enough

    Rescue isn’t all heartwarming success stories, and sometimes hard cases call for tough decisions

    With his wagging tail and happy demeanor, the golden retriever-spaniel mix looks like a friendly, approachable dog. And for a brief moment, he is.

    “You can pet him for about two seconds, and then he’ll nail you,” says Karen Deeds, a trainer and certified dog behavior consultant in Fort Worth, Texas.

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  • Magazine Article

    Animal Sheltering’s 2017 gift guide

    Holiday gifts for your favorite shelter and rescue humans

    Americans love animals to the tune of 90 million dogs and 94 million cats in homes across the country, and yet many know very little about the daily work that animal control officers, veterinarians, volunteers, adoption counselors, community cat coordinators, kennel managers, behaviorists, shelter directors and humane educators do to help the people and animals in their communities.

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  • Blog Post

    Got compassion fatigue?

    Sleepy pup

    Animal protection work is really, really hard. Discover how to take better care of yourself, so that you can take better care of the animals in your care.

    Before coming to The HSUS over five years ago, I spent about 11 years working in two different shelters in Washington state, where I live. I wore about fifty different hats, managing volunteer programs, foster care, outreach and education programs, and doing just about every shelter task there is, from intakes to adoptions, and from cleaning cages to euthanasia. Being a “shelter person” wasn’t just a job for me; it was my identity. It was hard, it was often frustrating and even heartbreaking, but it was all I wanted to do.

    Read More

  • Magazine Article

    The flip side of fatigue

    How to strengthen your compassion resilience

    Many of us working in animal welfare are all too familiar with compassion fatigue—the feelings of depression, sadness, exhaustion, anxiety and irritation often experienced by people who devote their lives to helping animals and witness some awful stuff along the way.

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  • Magazine Article

    Emotional rescue

    Emotionally healthy animals are content and resilient, and their positive energy can spread to the animals around them.

    Understanding why it’s crucial for animals in our care to feel good

    Health is not complete if only the body is sound. Being healthy means being sound in body, mind and spirit. When we are healthy, we feel good—physically and emotionally. In fact, many would argue that a mental ailment is often more debilitating than a physical one.

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  • Magazine Article

    A good man in a hard job

    After 40 years of teaching humane euthanasia, Douglas Fakkema is retiring from that part of his work.

    A career spent ensuring softer departures for animals, and helping animal welfare workers cope

    In 1971, the U.S. was still reeling from the Vietnam War and the shock of the material leaked in the Pentagon Papers. Janis Joplin was on the radio singing about Bobby McGee, and Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal were giving people terrible relationship advice—“love means never having to say you’re sorry”—in Love Story.

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