Compassion Fatigue, Yes It’s Real


Many people volunteer or work to do what they can for the animals. Just as some animals suffer horrendously and silently, these workers suffer. Torn between wanting to end the suffering of the animals and the anxiety, nightmares, upset stomachs, sleepless nights, and ruined interpersonal relationships; many individuals go for as long as they can until they just can’t take it anymore.

If you know someone who works in the animal welfare world, check in with them from time to time. Let them speak when they feel the need to share the horrors they have witnessed. Don’t turn away saying “it’s too much, I can’t handle it”. These individuals attempt to handle what so many choose to ignore and avoid. At least give them the courtesy of listening so that they can process the traumas AND the success stories. Sometimes just knowing someone will be there to listen and offer a shoulder to cry on will give them the strength they need to go on for another day.

Understand they get frustrated, angry, scared, feel powerless and feel MIGHTY. These emotions can run their course in the span of an eight-hour day. Have patience – their heart is overflowing with emotion. It needs a safe place to ebb and flow.

All Shepherd Rescue understands the demands placed upon Humane workers, Shelter staff, Rescue volunteers, and the countless others that work day in and day out to end the needless suffering of America’s homeless pets. We thank you for all that you do and we want to let you know there are resources out there to help you cope.

If you are working in the animal welfare world and would like to seek counseling but feel finances are keeping you from getting the help you need, there is Open Path Psychotherapy Collective – a network of mental health professionals dedicated to helping individuals, families, children, and couples find affordable psychotherapy.

If paying for therapy is still not an option, many states offer free therapy sessions. Google “Pro Bono Counseling” and “your state” to see what might be available. If you are in Maryland, the Pro Bono Counseling Project is here to help.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to someone if you are feeling burdened and burnt out by working to save the animals. There are people who will listen and help you.


Author’s Note: All of the dogs featured in this blog have been adopted, with the exception of Lizzy, the first photograph.

I read an article awhile ago about compassion fatigue in animal welfare, and though the article was geared toward shelter workers, it struck a chord with me as well.

I often find ways to discount my feelings. I’m an expert at building emotional barriers to distance myself from traumas in my life, of which I’ve had an unfortunate number, but recently, the distance that I thought I was building is starting to cave in on me. As Joe put it, “You’ve been putting all that in the back of your mind and now the back of your mind is full and it’s got nowhere to go.”

Lizzy face

The nightmares started about three months ago. I’ve suffered with night terrors all my life and I go through phases when they are…

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