Working in Animal Welfare

Working in Animal Welfare Can Teach You A Lot About Life In General.

I recently hosted several compassion fatigue and burnout workshops and roundtable discussions with the teams from all three of Bideawee’s campuses. These topics are extremely important to those who do the very hard work, day in and day out of caring for animals. These are the people who dedicate their lives to this work because it is their calling, and who show the passion and dedication second to none. I wanted to show them support, understanding and hopefully, give them some tips from the experts in how to recognize compassion fatigue and burnout and how to mitigate it.

At the conclusion of these workshops, and after talking through the same themes with each team, I realized something so important, so obvious, that quite honestly, I can’t believe I never thought of it before. But now that I have, I want to share it with you as well!

These sessions with the team were instrumental in helping me recognize the profound lessons inherent in animal welfare and how they resonate deeply in our daily lives outside of this industry. It goes without saying that the intense and often difficult work we do to heal the bodies and souls of the animals in our care, which can often include bearing witness to the horrific ways that humans can treat animals and each other takes its toll on us. But what I realize is that we all see this outside of work too. People who don’t work in animal welfare also experience trauma.  They experience ugliness and ill treatment, stress and emotional turmoil.  All you have to do is turn on the news and you too will experience it.  So, the lessons of how to deal with compassion fatigue and burnout extend to each and every one of us on this planet.

As we learn to recognize the signs of burnout in animal welfare or in general, we need to take proactive measures to mitigate its effects, and in doing so, we can draw inspiration from the animals we care for each and every day.  Their determination to heal, learn to trust again and embrace love from humans regardless of their past circumstances teaches us the value of resilience and finding the strength to rise above adversity in our own personal journeys.

Our discussions have also highlighted the importance of self-care.  The welfare of animals relies on our ability to acknowledge our limitations and prioritize our own well-being.  You know the saying when taking a flight, you put your own oxygen on before helping the person next to you.  This important rule extends beyond an airplane and beyond our shelter walls, reminding us to be accountable for our own physical, emotional, and mental health. By nurturing ourselves, we will be better equipped to care for others.

The discussions on compassion fatigue have also brough to light the transformative nature of collaboration and support.  By fostering an environment of open dialogue and shared experiences, both at work and in our personal lives, we create a community where we can lean on one another during challenging times.  Just as our team members come together to provide the best care for our animals, these discussions have emphasized the strength that arises from working collaboratively to overcome obstacles and affect positive change.  I know that I certainly couldn’t get through my work’s challenges without the team, and I absolutely couldn’t and wouldn’t want to get through life’s many challenges without the emotional support of my circle of friends and family.

Holding these workshops with the team has unveiled invaluable lessons that bridge the gap between animal welfare and our day-to-day interactions in the world.  They have illuminated the importance of empathy, resilience, responsibility, and collaboration in our daily lives. And I hope with a little bit of all of those things, tossed in with some self-care, we can help create a world where empathy and compassion extend to all beings, animal AND human!