New Article Examines Negative Mental Health Effects of Working with Animals Surrenders and Seizures

Rochelle Stevenson & Celeste Morales, “Trauma in Animal Protection and Welfare Work: The Potential of Trauma-Informed Practice” (2022) 12:7 Animals 852.

Abstract: Those who work in the animal protection and welfare (APW) sector are consistently exposed to human and animal suffering, particularly those who witness animal surrenders and seizures. Continued exposure to suffering can result in stress, anxiety, burnout, and compassion fatigue, which are detrimental to individual and organizational well-being. The aim of this study was to understand the challenges experienced by Canadian APW workers, and to explore how trauma-informed approaches can be implemented to help mitigate these challenges. To achieve this, we utilized purposive sampling to seek workers in the APW sector who had experience with animal surrender and/or seizure. Telephone interviews were conducted with 11 participants. Participants reported experiencing many challenges that negatively impacted their mental health; this article summarizes them by focusing on two key themes drawn from the narratives of the participants: feeling unprepared and forced strength. Trauma-informed practices are explored as a means to prevent compassion fatigue and burnout, and to increase the resilience of individuals and organizations. We suggest trauma-informed practices help APW workers manage job-related stressors while also providing a more compassionate experience for animal guardians. Further, we propose that trauma-informed practices are a crucial component in facilitating respectful relationships with the communities that APW organizations serve.