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Shelter-specific occupational stress among employees in animal shelters

By M. Schneider, J. Roberts

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In the past 10 years a small number of articles have examined the personal and organizational costs associated with euthanasia-related strain among employees in animal shelters. However, there is very little research focusing on a wider range of potential stressors especially without a pre-existing assumption that euthanasia is the most stressful part of the job. A few studies have identified other sources of stress among shelter workers. Therefore, the purpose of the present study is to investigate the range of factors that may contribute to occupational stress in shelter workers. This study utilized a semi-structured interview. The participants were 22 shelter employees from seven shelters in Ontario, Canada and the northeastern United States. Data were analyzed using the constant comparative method. Three categories of stressors were identified: (a) those that are unique or largely unique to the shelter setting; (b) those that can be found in a wide variety of occupations; and (c) those that can be found in a wide variety of occupations, but are played out in unique ways in shelters. The stressors in the first category are reported here. Although euthanasia was a significant factor for 21 participants, five other major sources of stress were identified. Twenty-one participants cited the public's perceptions of animal shelters and 18 cited rude and abusive human clients. Twelve cited relationships with the animals including attachment issues. Eight identified responsibility for life as a stressor. Eleven identified witnessing animal suffering.

Publication Title Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin
Volume 4
Issue 1
Pages 19-38
Language English
Author Address Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, 252 Bloor St. W., Toronto, Ontario, L5S 1V6,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animals
  2. Animal welfare
  3. APEC countries
  4. Canada
  5. Canidae
  6. Canine
  7. Carnivores
  8. Cats
  9. Commonwealth of Nations
  10. Developed countries
  11. Dogs
  12. Euthanasia
  13. Mammals
  14. occupational safety
  15. OECD countries
  16. opinions
  17. peer-reviewed
  18. personnel
  19. Pets and companion animals
  20. shelters
  21. Stress
  22. surveys
  23. United States of America
  24. vertebrates
  1. peer-reviewed