Animal shelters and rescues cannot operate efficiently without volunteers and employees. Their dedication and time drive donations, adoptions, and increase the organization’s overall reach to the community. Often times, volunteers and employees get involved in making the animal welfare organization successful; they forget to take time for themselves. Directors, managers, and leaders need to know how to identify and understand the overall impact of stress or burnout.

Impacts
Volunteer and employee stress negatively impacts their well-being and your animal shelter or rescue in a number of ways.

  1. Volunteers with no passion. The best animal shelters and rescues have passionate volunteers and employees who believe in the mission and vision of the organization. Highly stressed volunteers and employees lose their spark and passion which leaves them with little desire to be present.
  2. Lack of engagement. Stressed individuals stop offering to help or participating in team brainstorming sessions. Their mind is too full to be actively engaged in helping others or your organization.
  3. Animals feel it. Animals can feel stress. Over time, that stress impacts their personality and behavior patterns. Some animals stop eating or act aggressively to other animals and human beings as a result.
  4. Supporters see it. Potential adopting families visit your shelter or rescue full of excitement to find their new family member. Their excitement can quickly dwindle if they interact with a stressed volunteer or employee that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Identify
Avoid these negative impacts by knowing what warning signs to look for and actively helping your volunteers and employees.

  1. They withdraw or stop communicating.
  2. Positive attitudes turn negative.
  3. Low productivity.
  4. Increased absence due illness or headaches.
  5. Increased turnover.

Help them

  1. Continuous training. Offer consistent training and education to help them understand new techniques and responsibilities. Your effort to keep them knowledgeable shows you are invested in their overall success.
  2. Start a conversation. If an individual appears to be acting different, talk to them. Ask them if something is bothering them or if they are unhappy with their responsibilities. Sometimes volunteers or employees are stressed due to things outside of your control – but sometimes it has to do with their work. Listen and create a plan that helps reduce their stress and takes them back to the positive personality they were before.
  3. Show appreciation. Show gratitude for their efforts on a consistent basis. Volunteers and employees feel stress when they don’t think they are doing a great job or their efforts aren’t appreciated.
  4. Change their workload. If they are feeling overwhelmed by their workload, offer to change it either temporarily or permanently. Life changes every day and some volunteers may not be able to commit to the same number of hours as they once were.
  5. Offer a leave of absence. If the volunteer or employee’s stress stems from an outside source, they might need some time off to handle and manage the situation. Be understanding and give them the time they need. They are more likely to come back fully charged when they know you care.

Pay attention to your volunteer and employee actions and take action when they change. Volunteers and employees are vital to your long-term success. Show them you care about their well-being and help them manage their stress. Your animal shelter or rescue will experience positive results when you do.

A Job in an Animal Shelter

August 28, 2013

Have you considered working or even volunteering at an animal shelter? You can expect it to be one of the most trying and toughest jobs you will ever fall in love with. In many areas you will find an abundance of lost or abandoned animals. Not every story will end happily either. Still, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are doing your part to make the lives of some of these animals better.

Your day might begin your day by cleaning out kennels, giving some animals baths, or making sure all of the four-legged tenants have food and water. Imagine how much care that one or two household pets require and multiply that by dozens of animals. Of course, while you are performing these tasks, expect to be greeted by lots of happy and expectant faces because most of these furry guys know that you care about them.

On some days, your heart may be uplifted because one of your favorites gets adopted by a nice family. Even though this particular cat or dog greeted you every morning, you might be forgotten quickly as he joyfully romps off with his new family. Fluffy or Fido might not remember you long, but you will surely always remember him.

Also be prepared for some grief as some ill animals have to be euthanized. This is just part of the reality of many animal shelters because they do not have the money or manpower to take care of pets that need a lot of care and will probably never be adopted. It is important for you to think about how you will handle that event before it happens.

Working for pay or volunteering at an animal shelter is tough work, but it is also very rewarding. If you really care about animals, it may be the best job that you ever had.

An animal shelter provides a valuable service to the community. In addition to housing lost dogs and cats, they offer optimal care to animals of all kinds. This includes ample food and water, along with immunization and daily medical treatments by certified veterinarians. Animals are also given plenty of love and attention, especially those that have been mistreated or discarded. While animal shelters play a pivotal role in the community, they are not exempt from risks or possible litigation. In fact, several shelters are sued each year due to unintentional negligence or customer mishaps. To effectively protect your animal shelter from unforeseen circumstances, you simply need liability insurance.

Liability coverage shields your center and its employees/volunteers from faulty claims. It also protects your venue in the event of emergencies, including fires, vandalism, structural abuse, and especially dog bites. While an animal shelter provides warmth and comfort to countless animals, it is highly exposed and susceptible to claims of all kinds. While insurance can minimize these exposures, there are ways for managers and directors to safeguard their shelters as well. This includes a stringent cell phone usage policy for all employees and volunteers. When it comes to cell phone policies and procedures, the SPCA and other animal rescue centers already have strict rules in place. This includes zero texting policies while at work, along with accessing the Internet for non-work related endeavors.

While emergencies can happen at any time, employees should urge their family members to contact their work phone. Since employee privacy can still be an issue, your policy needs to be clear and concise. It should explain the general purpose of the policy, while addressing key safety and security concerns. The policy should also extend to directors and managers, since they need to set good examples for their work force. If desired, the policy can be broken down into easy to read sections. These sections should cover cell phone use while transporting animals, along with general use at work and unsafe situations or scenarios. If the shelter, however, awards cell phones to employees or volunteers, they need to restrict usage to job related tasks and endeavors. They also need to set limits as based on their monthly charges or overall budget.

Cell phone policies tend to differ within animal welfare organizations. No matter which policy you implement, the terms should be clear and signed by all employees and staff.