Promoting A Healthy Work Environment At Your Animal Shelter or Rescue

October 6, 2014

Nurturing an environment at an animal shelter or rescue that is healthy and productive can be a taxing process. Staff and volunteers can have strong emotions about the things they see during a typical day at a shelter, including cases of animal cruelty, animals getting sick, and even animals dying.

There are two simple things you can do in order to help staff and volunteers cope with these painful aspects of working at a shelter or rescue.

Prep Your Team Members
Before anyone signs on to be a volunteer or a staff member, it can be helpful to let them know that they will be seeing some painful circumstances at the shelter from time to time. Some people think that shelters just feed animals until they get adopted by a loving family and live happily ever after. Don’t try to dampen the spirit of the potential team member, but be realistic as well. This can lessen the blow when unpleasant things do happen to animals at the shelter.

Celebrate the Positive Events
Whenever something positive and pleasant does happen to an animal in the shelter, be sure to recognize and celebrate it with the team. Things to celebrate might include:
• Successful births
• Birthdays of older animals
• An animal getting a clean bill of health from a vet (especially after an illness)
• A record number of animals being adopted out in a single day, week, or month
• The animals getting a new staff member or volunteer to join your team
And these celebrations don’t have to be just for the animals. Recognizing when a team member has done a good job on a project, has a birthday or anniversary, or is expecting new family members through adoption or pregnancy are all reasons to take a few moments out to say “Thank you,”, “Good job,” or “Congratulations!”

Beyond these two things you can do little more than just be there for your team. Be a solid shoulder for tears, a listening ear for frustrations, and an encouraging smile for when days do seem to be going well. And even as you do all of these things for the sake of your team members and your animals, don’t forget to celebrate and encourage yourself as well. You’re part of the team, too!

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