Report: Caring for the Caregiver


Patty and Flower

Animal care organizations play a vital role in saving animals who have nowhere else to go and, in all likelihood, would otherwise perish.


These organizations can take credit for the lives they save and for challenging current public attitudes and policy. Nonetheless, rescue takes its toll. Attributes that make good caregivers—intuition, empathy, openness, idealism, empathy, social-mindedness, dedication, personal experience of trauma—also create vulnerability. Unlike their counterparts in the human healthcare professions, animal care professionals receive far less fiscal and social support.


In Fall 2011, we conducted a needs assessment to address this deficit in support in the animal care community. Our overarching goal was to foster awareness and support for animal care organizations and caregiver wellbeing to help achieve the vision of a compassionate, ethical, trans-species society founded on mutual well-being.


In the course of the project, we worked with diverse, experienced animal caregivers to create an online survey that explored seven emergent questions:



  1. What are key attributes necessary for effective caregiving of animals in sanctuary?
  2. Do these attributes correspond to those cited in human caregiving settings?
  3. Are there educational and training needs?
  4. Do sanctuary personnel show consistent perceptions about animals?
  5. Do sanctuary caregivers derive social and emotional support from both humans and other animals?
  6. Are animal caregiver levels of stress comparable to other professions and groups?
  7. How do sanctuary caregivers feel about the workplace environment?


Interviews and survey responses were collated, analyzed, and integrated with an extensive literature to produce a report, Caring for the Caregiver: Analysis and Assessment of Animal Care professional and Organizational Wellbeing. In addition, we created a companion powerpoint presentation to highlight key results and insights.


We welcome and encourage your feedback and comments.