Objective—To identify and evaluate coping strategies advocated by experienced animal shelter workers who directly engaged in euthanizing animals.
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.
Objective—To examine the effects of euthanasia rates, euthanasia practices, and human resource practices on the turnover rate among employees with euthanasia responsibilities at animal shelters.
Design—Cross-sectional original study.
Sample Population—36 shelters across the United States that employed at least 5 full-time employees and performed euthanasia on site.
Procedures—By mail, 1 survey was sent to each shelter. Surveys were completed by a senior member of management and were returned by mail. Questions assessed characteristics (eg, euthanasia rates) and practices of the animal shelter, along with employee turnover rates. By use of correlation coefficients and stepwise regression analyses, key predictors of turnover rates among employees with euthanasia responsibilities were investigated.
Results—Employee turnover rates were positively related to euthanasia rate. Practices that were associated with decreased turnover rates included provision of a designated euthanasia room, exclusion of other live animals from vicinity during euthanasia, and removal of euthanized animals from a room prior to entry of another animal to be euthanized. Making decisions regarding euthanasia of animals on the basis of factors other than behavior and health reasons was related to increased personnel turnover. With regard to human resources practices, shelters that used a systematic personnel selection procedure (eg, standardized testing) had comparatively lower employee turnover.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Data obtained may suggest several specific avenues that can be pursued to mitigate turnover among employees with euthanasia responsibilities at animal shelters and animal control or veterinary medical organizations.