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Euthanasia-related strain and coping strategies in animal shelter employees

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  • 1 Organizational Science, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC 28223.
  • | 2 Organizational Science, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC 28223.
  • | 3 Organizational Science, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC 28223.
  • | 4 Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204.
  • | 5 Spartanburg Humane Society, 150 Dexter Rd, Spartanburg, SC 29303.
  • | 6 Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC 28223.
  • | 7 Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43402.
  • | 8 Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Hartford, West Hartford, CT 06117.
  • | 9 Development Dimensions International Inc, 1225 Washington Pike, Bridgeville, PA 15017.
  • | 10 Department of Management, College of Business, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849.

Abstract

Objective—To identify and evaluate coping strategies advocated by experienced animal shelter workers who directly engaged in euthanizing animals.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Sample Population—Animal shelters across the United States in which euthanasia was conducted (5 to 100 employees/shelter).

Procedures—With the assistance of experts associated with the Humane Society of the United States, the authors identified 88 animal shelters throughout the United States in which animal euthanasia was actively conducted and for which contact information regarding the shelter director was available. Staff at 62 animal shelters agreed to participate in the survey. Survey packets were mailed to the 62 shelter directors, who then distributed them to employees. The survey included questions regarding respondent age, level of education, and role and asked those directly involved in the euthanasia of animals to provide advice on strategies for new euthanasia technicians to deal with the related stress. Employees completed the survey and returned it by mail. Content analysis techniques were used to summarize survey responses.

Results—Coping strategies suggested by 242 euthanasia technicians were summarized into 26 distinct coping recommendations in 8 categories: competence or skills strategies, euthanasia behavioral strategies, cognitive or self-talk strategies, emotional regulation strategies, separation strategies, get-help strategies, seek long-term solution strategies, and withdrawal strategies.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Euthanizing animals is a major stressor for many animal shelter workers. Information regarding the coping strategies identified in this study may be useful for training new euthanasia technicians.

Abstract

Objective—To identify and evaluate coping strategies advocated by experienced animal shelter workers who directly engaged in euthanizing animals.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Sample Population—Animal shelters across the United States in which euthanasia was conducted (5 to 100 employees/shelter).

Procedures—With the assistance of experts associated with the Humane Society of the United States, the authors identified 88 animal shelters throughout the United States in which animal euthanasia was actively conducted and for which contact information regarding the shelter director was available. Staff at 62 animal shelters agreed to participate in the survey. Survey packets were mailed to the 62 shelter directors, who then distributed them to employees. The survey included questions regarding respondent age, level of education, and role and asked those directly involved in the euthanasia of animals to provide advice on strategies for new euthanasia technicians to deal with the related stress. Employees completed the survey and returned it by mail. Content analysis techniques were used to summarize survey responses.

Results—Coping strategies suggested by 242 euthanasia technicians were summarized into 26 distinct coping recommendations in 8 categories: competence or skills strategies, euthanasia behavioral strategies, cognitive or self-talk strategies, emotional regulation strategies, separation strategies, get-help strategies, seek long-term solution strategies, and withdrawal strategies.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Euthanizing animals is a major stressor for many animal shelter workers. Information regarding the coping strategies identified in this study may be useful for training new euthanasia technicians.

Contributor Notes

Supported by The Humane Society of the United States.

Address correspondence to Dr. Rogelberg.